Underwater archaeologists have discovered hundreds of ancient artefacts at the bottom of a lake that once lay beside the last Mayan capital to fall during the Spanish conquest.
According to local media, Polish archaeologists found ceramic incense burners, tools and artefacts relating to religious rituals at Lake Peten Itza in the northernmost Guatemalan department of Peten, bordering with southern Mexico.
The ancient Itza Mayan capital of Nojpeten was located on an island in the huge lake, and there are at least 27 Mayan sites that still exist around it.
The island is now occupied by the modern town of Flores, capital of the Peten department.
In 1697, Nojpeten was the last city to be conquered by the Spanish in all of Mesoamerica.
According to the latest discovery, the religious rituals took place on the north of the island.
Polish archaeologists found a 20-centimetre dagger, ceramic bowls, ceramic incense burners and hundreds of other artefacts.
Archaeologists also discovered a large shell from the Caribbean Sea, suggesting that the Mayans had contact with Caribbean inhabitants.
Magdalena Krzemien, an archaeologist from the Jagiellonian University, said: “In the ancient Mayan capital, we discovered over 500 artefacts including objects used during religious rituals.”
Lakes were an important element for the Mayan people because water had a symbolic meaning and was perceived as a medium through which the dead would travel to the underworld.
Reservoirs were often created at sites associated with the Mayan rain deity Chaac.
Chaac is typically depicted with a human body showing reptilian scales, large fangs and a long nose.
As his choice of weapon, the rainmaker liked to wield a lightning-axe and defend himself with a shield.