Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Scientists have completed the excavation of the oldest royal tomb yet discovered at Waka', a Classic Maya archaeological site in Guatemala.
The tomb belonged to an ancient Mayan ruler of Waka', or El Perú, the capital city of a Classic Maya city state located in what is now the Petén region in northwestern Guatemala.
"The Classic Maya revered their divine rulers and treated them as living souls after death," David Freidel, an anthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a news release.
Freidel likens the burial and the significance of the ruler's final resting place to the burials of English kings at Winchester Cathedral's Old Minister, the original royal church.
"This king's tomb helped to make the royal palace acropolis holy ground, a place of majesty, early in the history of the Wak -- centipede -- dynasty," Freidel said.
Along with the buried ruler, researchers recovered a variety of artifacts, including ceramic containers, mollusk shells, jade ornaments and a pendant carved in the shape of a crocodile.
Ceramic analysis suggests the tomb dates to between 300 and 350 A.D., making it the oldest to be recovered from Waka'. Researchers have previously recovered tombs dated to the fifth, sixth and seventh centuries A.D.
The man buried in the newly unearthed tomb was likely an early ruler of the Wak dynasty. Historical texts suggest the dynasty rose to power in the second century A.D.
Researchers also recovered the remains of another man, buried nearby, who they believe to be King Te' Chan Ahk, a Wak ruler from the fourth century A.D.
The newly unearthed tomb features a jade portrait mask, showcasing the ancient ruler with a tuft of gold hair on his forehead. The tuft is marked by a "Greek Cross" symbol, which translates to "yellow" and "precious" in ancient Mayan. Researchers found the cross beneath the entombed ruler.
Waka' is located 40 miles west of Tikal, Guatemala's most famous Mayan city and archaeological site. Researchers previously found a similar mask buried in a royal tomb dating to the 1st century A.D.