Archaeologists discover lost Maya city in Mexican jungle

Thu Jun 20, 2013 3:04pm EDT
 
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By Luc Cohen

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Archaeologists have found an ancient Maya city that remained hidden for centuries in the rain forests of eastern Mexico, a discovery in a remote nature reserve they hope will yield clues about how the civilization collapsed around 1,000 years ago.

The team, led by Ivan Sprajc, associate professor at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, found 15 pyramids - including one that stands 75 feet tall - ball courts, plazas and tall, sculpted stone shafts called stelae.

They named the city Chactun, meaning "Red Rock" or "Large Rock." Sprajc said it was likely slightly less populous than the large ancient Maya city of Tikal in Guatemala, and could have been home to as many as 30,000 or 40,000 people, though further research is necessary to determine an exact estimate.

Chactun likely had its heyday during the late Classic period of Maya civilization between 600 and 900 A.D., Sprajc said.

The team's research was approved by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History and funded by the National Geographic Society and two European companies.

Sprajc said the site — which covers 22 hectares (54 acres) and lies 75 miles due west of Chetumal — is one of the largest found in the Yucatan's central lowlands. The nearest settlement to the ruins is the small town of Xpujil, around 16 miles away.

"The whole site is covered by the jungle," he said in Spanish.

While the site was unknown to the academic community, Sprajc found evidence that other people had been to the site as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, but not since.   Continued...

 
A National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) worker shows the remains of a building at the newly discovered ancient Maya city Chactun in Yucatan peninsula in this May 31, 2013 handout picture by INAH made available to Reuters June 18, 2013. Archaeologists have found the ancient Maya city that remained hidden for centuries in the rain forests of eastern Mexico, a discovery in a remote nature reserve they hope will yield clues about how the civilization collapsed around 1,000 years ago. REUTERS/INAH/Handout via Reuters