Major Jade find at Nim Li Punit

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Archaeologists are thrilled with a major discovery made at the Nim Li Punit Archeological Site that yielded a jade pendant believed to be one of greatest finds in Belize. Located in Indian Creek Village in the Toledo District, Nim Li Punit was undergoing excavation after the recent unearthing of a burial chamber in early May. The major find of 26 ceramic pots and several jade pieces was made on Saturday, May 23rd, and has been classified as one of the most important discoveries since the Jade Head at Altun Ha.Nim Li Punit Maya Jade Pendant Archaeology Toledo Belize-16
The excavation at Nim Li Punit, commonly known as Big Hat, was being led by Dr. Geoffrey Braswell, anthropologist with the Mesoamerican Archaeology Laboratory at the University of California in San Diego, USA. The discovery location believed to be the burial chambers of kings and queens between the Maya Classic Period around 800 A.D. “We were excavating in the royal palace of the site where the kings and queens of Nim Li Punit who lived from about 400 A.D. until after 800 A.D. But the discovery that was really exciting came from a much later tomb that dates to about 800 A.D. In it we found 26 beautiful pots, the nicest of which are displayed at the visitors’ center in Nim Li Punit. We also found an incredible jade pectoral, a piece of jade that would be worn around the neck of Maya kings for their rituals,” said Braswell.Nim Li Punit Maya Jade Pendant Archaeology Toledo Belize-13
The object is the second largest carved jade piece ever found in Belize, and some archaeologist arguably suggest it to be the second largest decorated gemstone object in all of Mesoamerica. “This has yielded the most magnificent find I would say within the last 30 years in Belize. The only other find that is equivalent to this is the Jade Head itself. In fact this pendant is reminiscent of a pendant that hangs on one of the stela in the visitor center. You can see the individual who actually had the pendant on his chest and we think that it is the same. The one thing that strikes me immediately is that, most often times, when we talk about the ancient Maya, we don’t really hear about the stories of the individuals. In the Maya era, we’re just beginning to be able to decipher these glyphs and talk about people and so now here we have an individual, we have his name, we have where he came from, what type of alliance this was. So we can begin to build a chronology. We can begin to build stories. This pendant is an ornament that is usually placed around the neck of a ruler. It’s not only a beautiful object of antiquity of the ancient Maya, but the story it tells us is also extremely fascinating,” said Director of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, Dr. John Morris.Nim Li Punit Maya Jade Pendant Archaeology Toledo Belize-15
The remarkable story on the origin of the pendant sheds new light to Maya world. “It was brought here, it wasn’t made here, from Caracol in the Cayo District by a Lord of Caracol who came here to what was a much smaller site to celebrate an important event on the calendar. The Jade piece talks about this person that came, his name was Janaab K’inich. It also talks about his mother, whose name was the Holy Lady, and his father is mentioned and it says here that he came to do a ritual. Now what is interesting about that, is it tells us that the Lords here had very powerful relations with Caracol. We did not know that before, because there is no other way to tell from the artifacts here or from the other hieroglyphics. He came to do a scattering event, a form of a ritual sacrifice,” said Dr. Braswell.Nim Li Punit Maya Jade Pendant Archaeology Toledo Belize-10
The find of the jade pendant has led archeologists to learn far much more of Nim Li Punit than ever known before. “Dr. Braswell has deciphered some of the information on the plaque, and has recounted that the story is of a young man who was invited by a ruler at the site of Nim Li Punit. The more fascinating aspect of it is that his parents are actually from the major site of Caracol which is in western Belize up in the Chiquibul. And so we can see that even in ancient times, the story of the ancient Maya was rich with intrigue. It’s an amazing find because Nim Li Punit is a relatively small site, but we have found quite a bit of material here, including the longest stellae in Belize and now we have, perhaps, the second largest carved jade in the entire Mesoamerica,” said Morris.

Due to security measures and the significance of the jade pendant, it will be housed at the Central Bank of Belize.


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