A team of archaeologists in Guatemala has discovered a council house dating back about 700 years with altars, incense burners and sculpted images of animals.
Located at the site of Nixtun-Ch’ich’ in Petén, Guatemala, the house has “two colonnaded halls constructed side by side. The halls were decorated with sculpted [reptile], parrot and turtle imagery,” writes Timothy Pugh, a professor at Queens College in New York, in a summary of a talk he recently gave at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Austin, Texas.
A Mayan group called the Chakan Itza would have used this council house as a place to hold meetings, worship gods, make alliances and officiate marriage ceremonies.
“Basically almost every political and religious ritual would have been held there,” Pugh told Live Science in an interview. The leaders who gathered there would have held power in the community and perhaps the broader region. Among the artifacts is an incense burner showing the head of Itzamna, who was the “shaman of the gods,” Pugh said.
The reptile and parrot sculptures once adorned the walls of the hallways, while two altars each had a sculpted turtle on them, Pugh said. Among the incense burners are examples that appear to be shaped like a seedling ceiba tree, which held importance to the Maya and today is the national tree of Guatemala.