Updated September 29, 2005
In April of 2005, a perfectly preserved hieroglyphic panel was uncovered at the site of La Corona in northwestern Peten, Guatemala. La Corona (see map) is situated in the northern portion of the Laguna del Tigre National Park, which has recently been under considerable threat from invaders destroying the jungle for farmland and pasture. In 2003 man-made fires destroyed much of the park, including most of the jungle around and within the site of La Corona.
The new find was presented at the XIX Simposium of Archaeological Investigations in Guatemala in July, 2005, and the panel was presented publicly at a press conference in Guatemala City on 13 September attended by Manuel de Jesus Salazar, Minister of Culture and Sports, Hector Escobedo, co-director of the El Peru-Waka project, and Marcello Canuto. The press conference was reported on by Al Día and PrensaLibre.com.
Subsequent press releases by Yale University and Southern Methodist University highlighted the news that La Corona had been determined to be the elusive Site Q from which numerous monuments had been looted in the sixties.
The expedition to La Corona was organized through the El Peru-Waka' Project, directed by Dr. David Freidel of Southern Methodist University and Dr. Hector Escobedo of the Universidad de San Carlos. Logistics were carried out by Roan McNabb of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Salvador Lopez, head of the department of Monumentos Prehispanicos of the Guatemalan Instituto de Antropología e Historia.
The expedition to La Corona consisted of three graduate students from Southern Methodist University: Damien Marken and Lia Tsesmeli, who mapped the central plaza of La Corona and its associated structures, as well as Stanley Guenter who recorded the hieroglyphic monuments. Accompanying them was Dr. Marcello A. Canuto of Yale University, who reconnoitered the region around La Corona.
While Marken and Tsesmeli were mapping the central plaza of La Corona and Guenter was examining previously discovered inscriptions, Canuto was taking GPS readings on a number of mounds on the peripheries of the site. Unfortunately, all of these mounds had been badly looted in the past, but perceptive archaeologists can still recover information from the stratigraphy revealed in looters' trenches. With only 24 hours left at the site Canuto was trying to take GPS coordinates on these looted temples in order to have even minimal data about them. It was in this situation that he made his discovery.
"Because the GPS receiver I had could not take readings very quickly through the thick canopy, it would take roughly fifteen minutes to take an acceptable reading. After waiting for ten minutes in front of Structure 5 of the La Corona Group, I decided that rather than get eaten by mosquitoes, I would investigate my surroundings a little more carefully. I left the GPS hanging on a branch and entered into the looters' trench. It was not a terribly large trench; however it did cut into the very center of the structure.
"Given the time that I had at my disposal, I decided to let my eyes get accustomed to the darker surroundings. It was at that moment that I noticed two large flat stones. At first I thought they were just façade stones, but on even closer inspection I realized that they were covered in hieroglyphs."
The hieroglyphs uncovered by the expedition were not only perfectly preserved; they revealed precious details of the ancient history of La Corona and its political connections to the powerful city of Calakmul in the seventh century. They also provided the final clue to a mystery that has long puzzled Mayanists: the identity of the enigmatic Site Q.
In 1997, Ian Graham and David Stuart of the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions had visited La Corona and noted glyphs at the site which Stuart connected to one of the Site Q monuments in a U.S. collection. (See Graham's account, Mission to La Corona, and Angela Schuster's detailed report, The Search for Site Q, from Archaeology Magazine.)
Dr. Stuart has since made public presentations, including a lecture at the XV Simposium of Archaeological Investigations in Guatemala in July, 2001, in which he presented evidence that La Corona and Site Q are one and the same place.
Now the 2005 expedition had discovered the final, conclusive evidence to put La Corona firmly on the map of Mesoamerica. The panel found by Canuto had demonstrated through its dimensions, style and textual content that La Corona was indeed Site Q.