Impressively Large Jade Pendant with Unique Inscription Discovered in Belize

C San Diego archaeologist Geoffrey Braswell holds a replica of the Maya jade pendant. Credit: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications.

A team of archeologists from the University of California San Diego were excavating the ancient Maya ruins of Nim Li Punit in southern Belize when they discovered the largest jade pendant ever discovered. Measuring a whopping 7.4 inches (18.7 cm) by 4.1 inches (10.4 cm), the ancient jade pendant was meant to be worn as a chest plate by the king during religious ceremonies.

Originally unearthed in 2015, the enormous jade pendant has been compared to the Hope Diamond (a monster 45-carat jewel discovered in India) by the lead archeologist on the dig, George Braswell. The UC San Diego professor praised the technical skill necessary for the ancient Maya to polish and shape the pendant which is just 0.3 inches (76 mm) thick. But what has archeologists most excited are the 30 hieroglyphs engraved on the face of the pendant. According to Braswell’s paper published in the Ancient Mesoamerica Journal, the hieroglyphs tell the story of Janaab Ohl K’inich, a powerful Maya king who rose to the throne in the year 647 AD.

But it is the location where the giant jade pendant was found that reveals important clues about the little-understood collapse of Maya civilization around the year 900 AD, possibly due to climate change. The pendant was found in an empty tomb along with 25 pottery vessels, apparently offerings to the wind god of Maya culture. Wind was an important natural element in ancient Maya society as it brought much-needed rains that helped crops to grow. Archeologists surmise that, sometime between 647 AD and the year 800 when the city was abandoned, Maya priests included the jade pendant in an offering to the god of wind in a desperate effort to end the droughts that plagued the region. Archaeologists are still unsure whether Janaab Ohl K’inich ruled the city of Nim Li Punit or whether the pendant was later brought to the site.

Go Maya Adventures

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Go Maya Adventures can also assist with other aspects of your vacation. Go Maya Adventures can help you plan your itinerary, including ground transfers, accommodations, and popular tours like nature hikes, bird watching, zip lining through the jungle, picnicking under a waterfall, and many other exciting options.