The Calakmul Epigraphic Research Project, started by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), the primary Mexican archaeological body, in 1993, successfully unearthed an array of Mayan wall murals in Calakmul, Campeche, in south-eastern Mexico, in 2004. This new set, replete with hieroglyphic captions, for the first time offers a glimpse into the daily routine of the Mayan commoners, in and around the time period of 620 to 700 A.D.
Headed by chief researchers Ramón Carrasco Vargas, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, and Simon Martin of the Penn Museum in Pennsylvania, these murals were discovered by the team, buried deep within Mexican jungles. Calakmul, located within a 7,230 km2 biosphere reserve in the Mexican state of Campeche, covers an area of 30 km2 and was the seat of the Kan or 'snake' Kingdom. Placed at the heart of this city were two humongous Mayan pyramids, the external walls of which displayed a cornucopia of murals reflecting a completely different aspect of Mayan history and civilization.
According to a recent statement by Michael D. Coe, Mayan expert and curator emeritus at Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History, "There's really nothing like this in any of the [known] murals. These are totally unexpected." Unlike the previously found murals, these basically portray common people 'engaged in everyday activities'. Besides vibrant depictions of traditional Mayan clothing and jewelry donned by people of the different social strata of this classic Mayan city, the murals show people engaged in culinary affairs. The pictures even have labeled characters like a 'salt person' and a 'tobacco person'.
Other panels limn a woman distributing tamales, prepared by wrapping and steaming corn and cornmeal dough stuffed with meat mixtures, in corn husks, to a crowd, a couple circulating maize gruel and other corn products, staple to the Mayan diet. The Mayans were also among the earliest people to consume chocolates, thickening their chocolate drink by pouring from one vessel to another one placed on the ground. This drop, along with fatty cacao butter, created a thick, rich, and dark foam at the head of the vessel, much relished and enjoyed.
Most of previously unearthed Mayan murals alluded to mainly the divine, the royal, and the noble. For instance, the murals at San Bartolo, Preten, Guatemala, dealt majorly with Gods making several bestial sacrifices followed by the depiction of life cycle of the Maize god. This is then followed by the accession of a human king, thus, marking one of the genesis points of the belief that a king is a natural successor of God on earth. The Bonampak murals in Chiapas, Mexico portray mostly ancient Mayan religion, court life, warfare, and social hierarchy.
Another exceptional attribute of these Calakmul murals are there external locations. "In other words, they were public. They were to be seen by everybody," explains Coe. All previously discovered Mayan murals were deeply embedded within the pyramids.