A team of archaeologists in Guatemala, led by Olivia Navarro-Farr, assistant professor of anthropology at the College of Wooster, has discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Mayan queen.
A team of archaeologists in Guatemala, led by Olivia Navarro-Farr, assistant professor of anthropology at the College of Wooster, has discovered the tomb of Lady K’abel, a seventh-century Mayan queen, also known as “Kaloomte’ K’abel,” a “Holy Snake Lady” of Classic Maya civilization whose monument can be viewed at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
According to a press release from the College of Wooster, the tomb was identified in June during excavations of the ancient Mayan city of El Perú-Waka’ in northwestern Petén, Guatemala.
“Lady K’abel was considered the greatest ruler of Waka’ during the Late Classic period,” Navarro-Farr said in a statement. “She ruled with her husband, K’inich Bahlam, for at least 20 years (672-692 AD). She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title ‘Kaloomte,’ which translates to ‘Supreme Warrior’ — higher in stature and authority than even her husband, the king.
“The significance of this woman’s powerful role as a ‘Kaloomte,’ a title rarely associated with Maya women, provides tremendous insight on the nexus of gender and power in Classic Maya politics.”
The discovery occurred while Navarro-Farr’s team was focused on recording architectural change and examining shrines, altars, and dedicatory offerings. It was located at the base of a stairway in the structure the team was excavating.
Navarro-Farr began excavating the surface of this temple structure as a doctoral student in 2003. Her previous research focused on the extensive ritual deposits associated with post-dynastic life at Waka.
The project is co-directed by David Freidel, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, and Juan Carlos Perez, former vice minister of culture for cultural heritage of Guatemala.
“We’ve been at the site for a number of years,” she said. “Our objective was to define architecture, and establish a tighter chronology. We were hoping this season’s research would address our question of why this building received so much ritual attention throughout its final occupation. Needless to say, encountering the royal tomb of Kaloomte K'abel herself is not only tremendously exciting and rewarding, but also humbling. It is an honor for all of us to share in and carry forward his work.”