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MEXICO CITY, 26 JANUARY 2010 — A 1000-year-old stele with the sculpted image of a Mayan ruler was found in the archaeological area of Lagartero in the southern Mexican state of Chaipas, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said.

In the bas-relief sculpture the Mayan ruler rises above an individual who lies at his feet, "a scene representing the seizing of power by one Maya group from another," INAH said, adding that the archaeological area of Lagartero will be open to the public this year.

INAH experts found the stone monument in late 2009 at the 10th section of Pyramid 4 in Lagartero, the source said.

Archaeologist Sonia Rivero Torres, who heads the Lagartero archaeological project, said that the stele or commemorative monument - the first to be found complete on the site - measures 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) long, 55 centimeters (22 inches) wide and 6 centimeters (2 1/3 inches) thick.

The stele was sculpted in metamorphic rock, known locally as "heart of stone."

"In the pre-Colombian monument the profile image of a Mayan ruler is seen standing over a bench carrying a bag of incense in one hand and dressed in a loincloth bound with a sash and wearing sandals and a feather headdress.

"At his feet, lying on his back on the bench, lies another, smaller person with his torso opened as a sign of sacrifice or of being overthrown," the archaeologist said.

The expert added that the stele was discovered while exploring a rectangular stone casket, which had possibly been plundered in pre-Columbian times since no bones were found inside.

The archaeologists also found, when they went down to a lower level of the pyramid, a pair of large earthenware pots, broken but complete, one of which contained an smaller, unbroken pot.

Together with these ceramics was a polychrome plate and a black vase with a zoopmorphic lid that contained a rich offering of jade objects, notable among which were two earflaps, a jointed turtle and a beaded necklace.

Another box was found in the fifth section of Pyramid 4, from which 40 vessels of different shapes, zoomorphic vases and a few human bones were recovered, INAH said.

Lagartero's pre-Columbian ceremonial center extends the length and breadth of the 8 hectares (2 1/2 acres) that make up the islet of El Limonar, the biggest of the 11 dotting the lakes of Lagos de Colon, in the community of Cristobal Colon in the municipality of La Trinitaria, Chiapas.

Lagartero is known to have been occupied from the Classical Period to the Early Post-Classical Period, which is to say from 300 A.D. to 1200 A.D.

Given its strategic wetlands location, the habitat of fresh-water species like the alligator, the Maya settlement controlled the area's natural resources and could also restrict access by water.

Lagartero was a key point for trading goods and products between the highlands of Guatemala and Mexico's central plateau.

Archaeologists working at the site have uncovered an enclosed ball-playing court together with its five altars, along with a series of architectural structures, INAH said. EFE

Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), Mexico

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