Mexican archaeologists discovered a nearly 2,000-year-old sculpture of a jaguar in the Izapa archaeological zone, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said in a communique.

The one-ton piece - which measures 1.38 meters (53 inches) long by 87 centimeters (34 inches) high and 52 centimeters (20.5 inches) wide - "is only engraved on one of its sides with the form of a jaguar, with the front and back paws flexed as if it were lying down," the director of the INAH Center in the southern state of Chiapas, Emiliano Gallaga, said.

Izapa, which is located about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the border with Guatemala, was an important civic religious center built some 2,500 years ago by a pre-Mayan culture.

The jaguar sculpture appears to be only partially completed because the other faces of the stone are blank, indicating that it was possibly in the process of being carved when work was halted on it, Gallaga said.

He said that the piece not only adds to the sculptural heritage of Izapa, but also reiterates the importance of the jaguar in the ritual thinking of the Mesoamerican cultures, as well as showing the sensitivity of a people in expressing concepts in stone.

"The sculptures of Izapa were made with stones because there were no metals in that period, and in some cases the Indians used jade chisels. Due to the characteristics of the monument and the associated material, it is estimated that it could be approximately 2,000 years old," the INAH expert said.

"Because of its dimensions and the site where the stone was found it could not be removed immediately and was left there, to be recovered during the next season, which began this August," Gallaga said. 

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