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. (Photo : REUTERS/INAH/Handout via Reuters)
It may not be the year 2012 anymore, but the Mayans keep giving humanity fascinating pieces of their ancient culture to wonder over. Deep in the jungle of the southeastern state of Campeche, Mexico, archaeologists have discovered an ancient, huge, lost Mayan city called Chactún.
According to experts at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the size of the previously-unknown city in the Mexican state suggests it was once a seat of government for Mayan civilization. It covers more than 54 acres of jungle in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. Archeologists believe it could have been a major city during the period of 600 A.D. to 900 A.D., some 1,400 years ago.
Until now, according to Discovery news, the region has been a "total blank" on the Mayan archeological map, the ruins hidden in the Calakmul Reserve's thick jungle. Ivan Sprajc, a Slovenian archaeologist and associate professor at the Solvenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, led the team of experts to their discovery and named the site Chactún, meaning "Red Rock" or "Large Rock."
Previously, an initiative called the Archaeological Reconnaissance Project in southeastern Campeche, Mexico, had identified up to 80 Mayan sites using aerial photography, but Chactún wasn't one of them. Sprajc looked at photographs from the northern part of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and found some clues that led him and archeologists to the site. "We found many features that were obviously architectural remains," said Sprajc.
Cutting through the thick tropical vegetation, Sprajc led his archeological team to the site. "The whole site is covered by the jungle," said Sprajc. While the site hadn't been discovered by scientists yet, Sprajc partially followed lumberjack's trails to get to the site, suggesting that people had been to the site to exploit its natural resources, but never bothered to tell the world about the site. "Lumberjacks and gum extractors were certainly already there, because we saw cuts on the trees," said Sprajc. "What happened is they never told anyone."
At the site, Sprajc and colleagues found 15 pyramids ranging in size - including one that was about 75 feet tall - along with buildings, plazas, 19 sculpted stelae (or tall statues made of stone), and ball courts for playing the ancient, and sometimes deadly Mayan ritual ballgame. "We realized, with big surprise, that the site was even larger than we had expected. What impressed us most were the volumes of the buildings - they are not extremely high, but very massive," Sprajc told Discovery News.
The city consisted of three huge complexes, on the west, southeast, and northeast corners of the site, with the ballgame court in the southeastern complex. Stelae were found all over the site, and the team named the city after one of the inscriptions on one sculpture: Translated, it read that the ruler K'inichi B'ahlam "erected the Red [or Great] Stone in 751."
This marks the second monumental discovery of Mayan architecture and ancient civilization in about two months. In May, researchers from the University of Houston, along with filmmaker Steven Elkins, identified what could be the ruins of "La Ciudad Blanca," or the legendary White City that conquistador Herman Cortés sought, in the forests of Honduras.