Mild drought may have caused the Mayans to abandon sites like Tikal in Guatemala
Credit: JOHAN ORDONEZ

A Mayan tomb of exceptional antiquity has been uncovered in Guatemala, believed to have belonged to a ruler who died over 2,000 years ago.

Scientists made the discovery in a temple site in Guatemala's Retalhuleu Province, and suspect that the tomb was constructed between 400 and 700 B.C, says the BBC.

Jewelry depicting a vulture-headed human was found with the ruins, indicating that the personage buried there was in some fashion associated with the carrion birds. Scientists dubbed him K'utz Chman, or Grandfather Vulture.

Read more from GlobalPost: Tomb of a Mayan warrior queen

The tomb is suspected to represent a bridge between the preceding Olmec culture and the Mayan culture that followed it, a remarkable find that provides historical context for other discoveries.

"He was the big chief," said archeologist Miguel Orrego to Reuters. "The ruler who bridged the gaps between Olmec and Mayan cultures and initiated the slow transition to Mayan rule."

The Olmec culture
preceded the Mayans, functioning from 1200 to 400 BC—you've probably seen the massive stone heads attributed to these people in museums or textbooks before.

It's been a banner year for Mayan discoveries. Earlier this month, the remains of a suspected Maya warrior princess were found in Peru, in a remarkable find that has changed the way women's roles in these societies are perceived.

Also in 2012, a Mayan ruin was found with a calendar that refuted the popular mythology that the Maya predicted the end of the world in December of 2012. (Hint: we're probably OK).

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