working in a
The frieze, which
is eight metres
long and two metres wide (26ft by six
feet), shows three figures decorated with
quetzal feathers and jade sitting atop the
head of a mountain spirit.
It was found at the pre-Columbian
archaeological site of Holmul.
Site director Francisco Estrada-Belli
called it it a once-in-a lifetime find.
Snake Lords v Tikal
The frieze was found below a 20m-high
(65ft) pyramid which was built over it in
the 8th Century.
"The preservation is wonderful because
it was very carefully packed with dirt
before they started building over it," Mr
The sculpture is believed to depict the
crowning of a new Mayan leader in
It also bears an inscription made up of
30 glyphs, which was deciphered by
Harvard University expert Alex
The inscription says that the carving was
commissioned by the ruler of a nearby
city-state, Ajwosaj ChanK'inich.
The archaeologists say the frieze and its
inscription shed light on a classical
period of Maya rule in which two rival
kingdoms, Tikal and the Snake Lords,
fought for control of the region.
Mr Tokovinine says the inscription
suggests that Ajwosaj, who was a vassal
of the Snake Lords, came to the site to
re-establish the local political and
religious order after Holmul, which had
supported the Tikal kingdom, had