Maya warrior statue with serpent helmet discovered at Chichén Itzá

The anthropomorphic sculpture of the Maya warrior.
The anthropomorphic sculpture of the Maya warrior. (Image credit: INAH Yucatán Center)

Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered a 1,000-year-old statue of a Maya warrior in the basement of a temple at Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán Peninsula.

The statue depicts a warrior wearing a helmet shaped like a serpent with its jaws open, as well as a feathered headdress, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a translated statement. The statue is 13 inches (33 centimeters) tall and 11 inches (28 cm) wide, and aside from a crack, it's in good shape, according to the statement. The head may have once been part of a larger sculptural design.

Chichén Itzá flourished between the ninth and 13th centuries and covers more than 740 acres (300 hectares). At the center of the site, a pyramid known as El Castillo (The Castle) rises 100 feet (30 meters) high. The site has many temples, as well as a massive ball court and an astronomical observatory.

Related: Palatial 1,500-year-old Maya structure unearthed in Mexico

The carving shows a snake's head over the human's likeness. (Image credit: INAH)

The site is a popular tourist destination, and over the past few years, the INAH has been modifying and building new visitor centers and museums, as well as a new train line, known as the "Tren Maya," near the site, the statement said. The statue was found during archaeological work accompanying that railway construction.

A wealth of other archaeological finds have been made during this construction work, including about 660 human burials, over 1 million ceramic fragments, the remains of numerous architectural structures, and a variety of other artifacts, the statement said.

Owen Jarus
Live Science Contributor

Owen Jarus is a regular contributor to Live Science who writes about archaeology and humans' past. He has also written for The Independent (UK), The Canadian Press (CP) and The Associated Press (AP), among others. Owen has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from Ryerson University.