Mexican Rainforest Reveals Long-Hidden Maya City
June 21, 2013

Mexican Rainforest Reveals Long-Hidden Maya City

Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of what could be a lost ancient Maya city in the rainforests of Mexico.

The team said they discovered one of the largest sites registered in the Central Lowlands of this civilization sitting in the southeast of Campeche. They believe the city was the center of a vast region somewhere between 600 and 900 AD.

Archaeologists had to drive down a 10-mile, four-wheel-drive-only road for two hours into the tropical forest before setting up camp. The road was so overgrown that they had to continually make stops to cut back vegetation with a machete.

The ancient city, named "Chactún," remained hidden in the jungle of northern Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul. The researchers said it is part of an area that spreads over 1,150 square miles.

"It is one of the largest sites in the Central Lowlands, comparable in extent and magnitude of its buildings with Becan, Nadzcaan and El Palmar in Campeche," said archaeologist Ivan Sprajc, from the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU).

Chactún is one of 80 sites that have been identified by the Archaeological Survey Project in Southeastern Campeche, which began in 1966.

"With aerial photographs examined stereoscopically, we find many features that were obviously architectural remains. From there we took the coordinates and the next step was to locate the ancient alleys used by tappers and loggers to reach the area," explained Sprajc.

The site comprises of three monumental complexes that are scattered with pyramidal structures, two ballgame courts, patios, plazas, monuments with sculptured shafts (known as stelae) and residential areas. The tallest pyramid sits in the West Complex and rises 75 feet high.

Some altars still remain in the area, a few of which were made of stucco, reflecting the splendor of the city. Altars have been found throughout other Maya cities, but ones featuring stucco with painted inscriptions are a rare feature. Chactún also features twin towers, which is a different architectural style from other Maya cities in the area.

Several monuments discovered in the city were reused in later times, possibly during the Late Classic and Early Postclassic.

"These people may not know the meaning of the monuments, as some of the stelae were found in head, though they knew they were important and worshiped them, because they found ceramic offerings in front of some of them," he said.

A study published in April suggested that the origins of the Maya civilizations are more complex than previously thought.

“We have this idea of the origin of Maya civilization as an indigenous development, and we have this other idea that it was an external influence that triggered the social complexity of Maya civilization. We’re now thinking it’s not actually black and white,” said UA anthropology graduate student Victor Castillo. “We’re saying that the scenario of early Maya culture is really more complex than we thought."

The Maya civilization is well-known for elaborate temples, a sophisticated writing system, and mathematical and astronomical developments. However, origins of the civilization have remained a bit of a mystery.