This carved alabaster vessel (shown from two sides) found in the burial chamber is what made the archaeologists conclude the tomb was that of Lady K’abel.

Tomb Discovered in Guatemala Likely Belonged to Maya Queen K’abel


Archaeologists in Guatemala believe they’ve discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, military ruler of the Wak, or “Centipede” kingdom, during the seventh-century. She was considered one of the great queens of Classic Maya civilization.

The tomb was found in the city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala by a team led by Washington University in St. Louis’ (WUSTL) David Freidel, who co-directed the expedition.

The reason the team believes the tomb belongs to K’abel is the carved alabaster jar they found in the burial chamber. The jar, which is carved like a conch shell, has the head and arm of an elderly woman protruding from one side and four glyphs carved on the other.

“Nothing is ever proven in archaeology because we’re working with circumstantial evidence, but in our case we have a carved stone alabaster jar that is named K’abel’s possession and she is named as a queen of the snake dynasty so it’s as close to a smoking gun if you have it as we can get,” Freidel says in a video describing the find. “Is it possible that this is actually a later queen who took this as an heirloom from K’abel—yes it is possible—but until we find another candidate for K’abel that’s better than this, this is an especially good one.”

A press release from WUSTL says this find isn’t only important because they are so certain of who is buried there, but also because archaeological and historical records meet there.

“The Classic Maya civilization is the only ‘classical’ archaeological field in the New World—in the sense that like archaeology in Ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia or China, there is both an archaeological material record and an historical record based on texts and images,” Freidel says in the release. “The precise nature of the text and image information on the white stone jar and its tomb context constitute a remarkable and rare conjunction of these two kinds of records in the Maya area.”

The hieroglyphs on the back of the jar include the names “Lady Waterlily-Hand” and “Lady Snake Lord,” according to researchers. They say the glyphs identify her as princess of Calakmul, which they say is “almost certainly an alternative spelling of the name of Lady K’abel, as both names consist of hands holding waterlilies and both are titled as princesses of Calakmul.”

K’abel ruled with her husband, K’inish Bahlam for at least 20 years (672-692 AD), according to Freidel. Her title was “Kaloomte’,” which translated to “Supreme Warrior,” and she was even more powerful than her husband.

David Freidel talks about the find:

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