Ceramic head found in the tomb in Mexico's Chiapas state.
Archaeologists say a recently discovered 1,100-year-old tomb from the twilight of the Mayan civilization may reveal who occupied the Mayan site of Tonina in southern Chiapas state after the culture's classic period began to decline.
Many experts have pointed to internal warfare between Mayan city-states, or environmental degradation, as possible causes of the Maya's downfall starting around AD 820.
But Juan Yadeun, who oversees the Tonina site for Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, said artifacts from the Toltec culture found in the tomb may point to another explanation. He said the tomb dates to between the years 840 and 900.
"It is clear that this is a new wave of occupation, the people who built this grave of the Toltec type," Yadeun says. "This is very interesting, because we are going to see from the bones who these people are, after the Maya empire."
The Toltecs were from Mexico's central highlands and apparently expanded their influence to the Maya strongholds in southern Mexico. They are believed to have dominated central Mexico from the city of Tula — just north of present-day Mexico City — between the 10th and 12th centuries, before the Aztecs rose to prominence.
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