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Facade from one of the Mayan cities in Mexico

Archaeologists Discover Two Long Lost Ancient Maya Cities in Jungle of Mexico

In an amazing new discovery in the jungles of Mexico, archaeologists have uncovered two ancient Mayan cities, including ruined pyramid temples, palace remains, a monster mouth gateway, a ball court, altars, and other stone monuments, according to a new release by Discovery News . One of the cities had been found decades ago but all attempts to relocate it had failed. The other city was previously unknown and is a brand new discovery, shedding new light on the ancient Mayan civilization.

Expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), explained that the finding was aided by aerial photographs of the tropical forest of central Yucatan in the state of Campeche, Mexico.  Some anomalies were noticed among the thick vegetation of the forest and so a team was sent in to investigate further.

Archaeologists were stunned to discover an entire city in an area between the Rio Bec and Chenes regions, extending some 1,800 miles, which are characterised by their Classic architecture dating to around 600 to 1,000 AD.

Although the city had originally been found by the American archaeologist Eric Von Euw in the 1970s, who produced records and drawings of the ancient Mayan ruins, the location was lost and all attempts to relocate the city, which he named Lagunita, had been unsuccessful until now. 

One of the most impressive features of the Mayan city is the enormous monster-mouth entranceway (depicted in the featured image), which represents a Maya earth deity of fertility. "These doorways symbolize the entrance to a cave and, in general, to the watery underworld, place of mythological origin of maize and abode of ancestors," Sprajc told Discovery News.

Beyond the entranceway, Sprajc and his team came across a large temple pyramid measuring 65 feet (20 metres) in height, as well as the ruins of a palace complex arranged around four large plazas. Nearby, they found numerous stone sculptures and several altars, all engraved with well-preserved reliefs and inscriptions.

The remains of a temple pyramid in the ancient Mayan city of Lagunita

The remains of a temple pyramid in the ancient Mayan city of Lagunita. Credit: Ivan Sprajc / Discovery News

One of the inscriptions has been analysed by epigrapher Octavio Esparza Olguin from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, who revealed that the hieroglyphics record the date of 29 th November, 711 AD and refer to a “lord of 4 k’atuns” (a k’atun is a 20-year period). However, unfortunately the section of text which would have referred to the name of the ruler is not clear enough to be read.

The hieroglyphic inscription - Mayan

The hieroglyphic inscription dated to 29 th November, 711 AD. Credit: Ivan Sprajc / Discovery News

Even more stunning than the rediscovery of Lagunita, was the fact that Sprajc and his team also stumbled across another set of ancient ruins nearby, which were previously unknown, including a pyramid temple, altar, and large acropolis surrounded by three temples. It’s structures resemble another Mayan city, which they have now named Tamchen (‘deep well’), after finding more than thirty chultans, deep underground chambers used for collecting rainwater.

Although it appears that the two cities existed at the same time for at least some of their existence, there is evidence that Tamchen may have been created before Laguinita, with some structures linked to the Late Pre-Classic period (300 BC – 250 AD).

Stone structure from the previously unknown city - Tamchen

Stone structure from the previously unknown city, which has since been named ‘Tamchen. Credit: Ivan Sprajc / Discovery News

Sprajc explained that both cities “open new questions about the diversity of Maya culture, the role of that largely unexplored area in the lowland Maya history, and its relations with other polities."

Featured image: One of the cities featured an extraordinary facade with an entrance representing the open jaws of an earth monster. Credit: Ivan Sprajc / Discovery News

By April Holloway

Comments

Tsurugi's picture

1800 square miles? That's enormous... is it a typo? If not...wow.

The part about the origins of maize being underground is intriguing. I've always wondered about the stories of North American natives giving corn seeds to European pilgrims. What were a supposedly nomadic people doing with crop seeds...crop seeds of a heavily modified plant, at that?

The author did not make clear from the original source article from Discovery News, what was really said. Discovery News in the original article said the following, "No other site has so far been located in this area, which extends over some 1800 square miles, between the so-called Rio Bec and Chenes regions," So the city itself was not 1,800 square miles, but located in an 1,800 square mile area that no other sites had previously been found. http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/three-ancient-maya-cities-...

An area of 1,800 square miles could be described as a circle with just under 24 mile radius. And with much of it overgrown with vegetation, could be hard to spot even by air.

Tsurugi's picture

You're absolutely right. I do not dispute the fact that the jungle could easily conceal a vast city beneath its vegetation. And a circle with a radius of 24 miles does encompass just over 1800 square miles.

But a city 48 miles across is as large as the largest modern cities. I don't dispute that cities of that size existed in the past...I think they probably did. It's just that I'm used to hearing much, much smaller figures from mainstream archaeology when it comes to the sizes of ancient urban centers. A mile or two, at the most. I think they would be completely astonished if faced with the prospect of an ancient city encompassing 1800 square miles. That would be as big a game-changer as Gobekli Tepe. They wouldn't announce it so blithely. It would be years before they published on it, because they would want to have an absolutely airtight collection of supporting evidence...just like what was done with Gobekli Tepe. IMO.

any idea how many people would have lived there?

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