The Holmul Project's finds at this point in time have been remarkable:
• A stela--a portrait carved into a stone slab--that dates back to 300 B.C., making it the oldest known image of a Mayan king.
• A cruciform cache cut into the limestone bedrock, containing religious offerings in the form of jade (as valuable to the Mayans as gold), dating to 500 B.C.: the oldest and largest of its kind to date.
• A huge anthropomorphic sculpture of a Mayan deity carved into the 11/2-inch-thick limestone stucco that covers the wall of the 100-foot-high face of the main pyramid at Cival, one of the smaller cities that ring Holmul.
The last is unlike any other Mayan find; preliminary carbon-dating methods place the big sculpture at Structure 1 (main pyramid) at about 150 B.C. It's so unique a find that Dr. Estrada-Belli is still trying to determine which deity it portrays and the actual size of the find. (They are excavating another tunnel below the first to see if there's a second sculpture.)
During the two days we spend at the dig sites, we get to eat, sleep, and breathe the life of archaeologists on the verge of making extraordinary discoveries. We brave the bugs, the heat, the cold showers, and the other things that go with jungle living.
In order to get to the numerous dig sites, we take to the narrow, muddy jungle roads in the Tacomas. "This is the experience of a lifetime and is almost spiritual for us," says Jim Greenfield, as we bounce along the mud and ruts on the way back to civilization. "To see everything first-hand and have the relevance explained by the very scientists who discovered these centuries-old ruins--that's exhilarating."