The journey to the underworld for 116 people began at this latest Mayan discovery.
Mexican archaeologists have uncovered a cemetery in the southeastern state of Tabasco that dates from as early as 811, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said Tuesday.
The discovery was made near the Great Acropolis of Comalcalco and holds the remains of 116 people, INAH said in a statement.
"This discovery is the largest skeletal sample ever recovered in that region of Mayan territory, which suggests that it could be a pre-Columbian cemetery associated with that culture," project coordinator Ricardo Armijo said.
"The 66 burials in urns correspond to individuals belonging to the Mayan elite and the other 50 - placed in different positions around them - to their companions" in the afterlife, he said.
Also found were instruments and figures associated with the burials such as "ceramic whistles and rattles in the form of animals and of richly dressed men and women, dozens of razors, knives, plus chips of flint and obsidian, many metal fragments and more than 70,000 shards of pottery."
An analysis of the objects revealed that the burials took place anywhere from 1,161 to 1,200 years ago, "though a complete study must still be done to confirm that," Armijo said.
He also said that the skeleton showed characteristics of the Mayan culture such as skull deformation and tooth fillings.
He believed that the 50 burials located around the urns correspond to people expressly placed there to accompany eminences of the Mayan nobility on their "journey to the underworld."
The archaeologist added that the insides of the urns must still be studied to "determine the presence of organic materials such as fabrics and feathers," which will help them know "whether the individuals were richly garbed at the moment of being interred."
The respective analyses of the bones and DNA must also be made to determine their age and sex as well as their pathological, nutritional and genetic patterns.