Experts have discovered a unique ancient tool that was used by Maya salt workers more than 1,000 years ago.
Fashioned from the mineral jadeite, the chisel-style implement was found at the site of Ek Way Nal, a Maya salt works in southern Belize that is now submerged in a saltwater lagoon. The tool’s Honduras rosewood handle was also discovered, offering a glimpse into the ancient Maya culture.
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Surrounded by a forest, the lagoon’s soggy mangrove soil preserved the wooden handle. “This jadeite tool is the first of its kind that has been recovered with its wooden handle intact,” said anthropologist Heather McKillop of Louisiana State University, who led the research project, in a statement.
The tool was analyzed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. A paper on the discovery was recently published in the journal Antiquity.
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The tool is the latest in a series of fascinating Maya discoveries across central America.
Last year an ancient mask depicting a 7th-century Maya king was discovered in southern Mexico.
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Also in 2018, archaeologists harnessed sophisticated technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle, confirming that the Maya civilization was much larger than previously thought.
LiveScience reports that hundreds of Maya artifacts that may have been used in ritual animal sacrifices have also been discovered at the bottom of a Guatemalan lake.
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From its heart in what is now Guatemala, the Maya empire reached the peak of its power in the sixth century A.D., according to History.com, although most of the civilization’s cities were abandoned around 900 A.D.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers