The archeological site of Takalik Abaj has cast fresh light on the development of early Maya civilization, particularly the influence of Olmec culture. The city presided over trade routes along the Pacific littoral, controlling the movement of jade, cacao and obsidian. An unlooted Maya royal grave was uncovered in 2002, and excavations are ongoing. First settled around 1800 BC, early ceremonial buildings and monuments were executed in Olmec style between 800 and 400 BC, including the characteristic pot-bellied humans with swollen eyelids. But by the late Preclassic period, Maya-style carvings of standing rulers were beginning to replace Olmec art. Later in the Classic era some of the Maya World’s most exquisite jade masks were created here – they now reside in Guatemala City’s Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología.

 

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