MOSCOW, August 24 (RIA Novosti) - An international team of archaeologists has discovered two large ancient cities built by the Maya in the tropical forest of the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, Reuters reports.
The lead researcher Ivan Sprajc, associate professor at the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, is confident they will uncover more cities in the Mexican jungle that remains largely unexplored. “There are dozens of sites that I already have seen on the aerial photographs,” he said.
The team spent two months in an area spanning 3,000 km2 (1158.3 mi2) between the so-called Río Bec and Chenes regions. They had to use aerial photos to locate the two cities situated 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) apart. “In the jungle you can be as little as 600 feet from a large site and do not even suspect it might be there,” Sprajc told Discovery News, as quoted by the Washington Post.
The first site, known as Lagunita, was discovered in the 1970s by Eric Von Euw, an American archaeologist, the press release issued by the Slovenian Academy stated. However, the exact location of the city remained unknown until Sprajc found it.
Researchers didn’t know the second city existed prior to it being discovered by the team. They named it Tamchen, meaning “deep well” in Yucatec Maya, after chultuns, bottle-shaped underground chambers, used to collect rainwater.
Sprajc maintains that both cities date back to the Late and Terminal Classic periods (600 A.D. – 1000 A.D.). They were probably abandoned at the end of that period, according to the press release of the Slovenian Academy.
The team has been able to map out the religious and administrative centers of both cities. Sprajc pointed out that Lagunita and Tamchen are much larger than what they found. He called the area they have already explored “downtown” saying there is a lot more to uncover.
The most remarkable discoveries in the cities feature a 20-meter (65.6-feet) high temple pyramid, plazas and buildings that resemble palaces. However, nothing compares to a profusely decorated façade with a monster-mouth doorway in Lagunita that researchers called spectacular.
The doorway symbolizes “the entrance to a cave and, in general, to the watery underworld, place of mythologized origin of maize and abode of ancestors,” Sprajc said, according to the Washington Post. Another member of the team, architect Arianna Campiani, said that the doorway is very well preserved adding that researchers made a detailed model of the façade employing 3D photo scanning technique.
Archaeologists say further research is needed to determine how significant the two cities were and what role they played in the region. Epigrapher Octavio Esparza assumes that judging by architectural volumes and monuments Lagunita “must have been the seat of a relatively powerful polity.”
The team is ready to start excavating the sites but needs additional funding.
Lagunita and Tamchen are not the first towns Sprajc and his team have discovered. In the summer of 2013 they found an ancient Mayan city of Chactun situated 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to the north of Lagunita. So far, no other ancient urban centers have been located in this area.