El Tigre Sacrifice and Jade Relic: Unearthing the Secrets


In the heart of Mexico’s mystique lies the captivating story of El Tigre, an ancient Maya city that has recently revealed its secrets to archeologists. A young Mayan’s skeletal remains, adorned with a magnificent jade ring, have emerged from the muddy depths, sparking intrigue about the enigmatic rituals of days gone by. This article delves into the mesmerizing discovery and the enthralling historical context that weaves together existence and demise, creating a choreography of transcendence.

The Unveiling of El Tigre’s Past

El Tigre
The excavation site at El Tigre where the burial vessels were found. ( Source )

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has unveiled a remarkable discovery during its recent excavations in the Mexican state of Campeche, near the Rio Candelaria. This treasure was unearthed at El Tigre, a Mayan city also known as “Itzamkanac” or “place of the lizard serpent.” El Tigre’s roots stretch back to the Middle Preclassic period, around 600 – 300 BC, and its history continued until the Spanish conquest of 1557 AD.

El Tigre: A Hub of Activity and Significance

Beyond being a mere settlement, El Tigre held a distinct place in history. It served as the political capital of the province of Acalán, a branch of either the Chontal Maya or the Putún Maya. This city was celebrated for its vibrant trading scene and its role as a ceremonial center, as evidenced by the striking stucco masks that adorned its landscape. Notably, El Tigre was the site of a pivotal moment in history—the tragic death of Cuauhtémoc, the last free ruler of the Aztec Empire, at the hands of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.

The Glowing Relic: Jade’s Resonance

El Tigre
he burial vessel in which the young, sacrificed Mayan was found at El Tigre. ( Source )

Diego Prieto Hernández, the general director of INAH, announced that the extraordinary jade ring was discovered within a sacred vessel at Structure 1 of the El Tigre Archaeological Zone, located west of the main pyramid temple. Believed to have belonged to a young individual from the Late Classic period (600-800 AD), the jade ring’s luminous green hue carries profound significance.

Jade: A Symbol of Spiritual and Cultural Depth

In the tapestry of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, jade stood as a symbol of cultural depth and spiritual resonance. This precious stone held immense importance among elite Maya, Aztec, and Olmec families. Its presence in artifacts and jewelry revealed not only religious rituals and societal hierarchies but also its link to fertility, life, and the cosmos.

The Spiritual Dance of Jade

he burial vessel in which the young, sacrificed Mayan was found at El Tigre. ( Source )

Across the expanse of ancient Mesoamerica, jade was intertwined with religious and spiritual narratives. During rituals and ceremonies, it symbolically represented the sun, the wind, life, and death. The stone’s enduring presence pays tribute to the artistry, spiritual beliefs, and complexity of Mesoamerican civilizations. It was a precious trade item that molded the artistic, social, and religious landscapes of these ancient cultures.

Unveiling History: Burials and Offerings

The archaeological exploration led by INAH has revealed a remarkable 177 pre-Hispanic human burials across regions like Palenque and Escárcega. Additionally, numerous relics, real estate, furniture elements, ceramic fragments, and natural features have been uncovered, offering a panoramic view of ancient human groups.

A Singular Offering

The skeleton discovered at El Tigre holds unique significance. Interred as part of a funerary offering alongside two large-format vessels covered with ceramic bowls, the individual’s flexed position beside the jade ring provides a window into the past. This ritualistic deposit occurred during the Late Classic period, coinciding with El Tigre’s peak in regional influence.

Unveiling the Triadic Complex

While Section 1 of the El Tigre Archaeological Zone witnesses intense archaeological study, the exploration extends to the Market Square, Main Square, and the “Triadic Complex.” Comprising 15 grand structures and countless smaller ones across approximately 85,000 m², this Great Central Acropolis unveils a complex society waiting to be understood.

A Glimpse into the Past for Future Generations

INAH’s efforts extend beyond excavations. Plans include erecting a building with interpretation panels and signage to welcome visitors. The ruins of El Tigre promise an immersive journey into the intricacies of social structures, religious practices, and daily life of ancient Mesoamerican civilizations. It offers a window into their interaction with the ever-changing natural world.


The discovery of the young Mayan’s skeleton and the radiant jade ring at El Tigre has transported us to a time when rituals and relics held sway over existence and transcendence. Through diligent archaeological efforts, the past breathes anew, inviting modern explorers to dance with the shadows of bygone eras.

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