Trophy necklace made of pieces of human skull discovered

June 16 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 6/16/2019 11:55:23 AM IST

 Two skulls which were recently discovered in the Belize jungles could hold the key to discovering why the once powerful Mayan civilisation collapsed.  

The painted human skulls were thought to be worn around the neck on the pendants of victorious warriors as trophies, over a thousand years ago at Pacbitun, a Maya city.

Researchers say the skulls, which were placed on the chest of a northern warrior, likely represent gruesome symbols made from the heads of defeated foes.

Both skulls are similar to depictions of trophy skulls worn by soldiers in stone carvings and on painted ceramic vessels from other Maya sites.

Archaeologists are fascinated by the mystery of 'the collapse' of this once powerful empire. 

Earlier studies focused on identifying a single cause of the collapse like warfare, loss of faith in leaders or drought. 

With the help of LiDAR surveys, researchers found evidence that some southern lowland cities, quickly constructed fortresses, according to the Live Science.

This indicated that violence and warfare between the north and the south could have partly contributed to the end of the empire.

The trophy skulls, together with a growing list of scattered finds from other sites in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, provides further evidence that the conflict may have been because of rising powers in the north pitted against the established dynasties in the south. 

The skulls likely were embellished with feathers, leather straps held in by holes that had been drilled into the skulls.

Other holes served to anchor the jaws in place and suspend the cranium around the warrior's neck

The backs were sawed off, the researchers claim, to make the skulls lie flat on the wearer's chest, the publication said.

The Maya empire flourished throughout Central America, with the first major cities appearing between 750 and 500 B.C. 

But beginning in the southern lowlands of Guatemala, Belize and Honduras in the eighth century A.D., people abandoned major Maya cities throughout the region.  

At the northern site of Xuenkal, Mexico, Dr Vera Tiesler and colleagues used pinpoint the geographic origin of a warrior and his trophy skull. He was local from the north.

But the trophy skull he brought home, found atop his chest in burial, was from an individual who grew up in the south.

Other evidence at a number of sites in the southern highlands seems to mark a sudden and violent end for the community's ruling order.

Archaeologists have found evidence for the execution of one ruling family and desecration of sacred sites and elite tombs.  

(Victoria Bell for Mailonline)

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