A significant ancient Maya city, previously unknown to researchers, has been unearthed deep within the jungles of southern Mexico, announced the country’s anthropology institute on Tuesday. The city, believed to have thrived over a millennium ago, is presumed to have served as a vital hub during its time.
According to the INAH institute, the recently discovered city, named Ocomtun in the Yucatec Maya language, boasts remarkable features such as large pyramid-like structures, stone columns, and three plazas adorned with imposing buildings. These architectural marvels, along with other structures arranged in near-concentric circles, provide valuable insights into the ancient Maya civilization.
The INAH institute further revealed that Ocomtun likely held great significance for the central lowland region of the Yucatan Peninsula between 250 and 1000 AD. Situated within the Balamku ecological reserve, this extraordinary find emerged from a search expedition spanning March to June, utilizing cutting-edge aerial laser mapping (LiDAR) technology. The exploration covered a vast expanse of jungle, surpassing the size of Luxembourg, which had remained largely unexplored until now.
The ancient Maya civilization, renowned for its advanced mathematical calendars, flourished across southeastern Mexico and portions of Central America. However, the civilization eventually faced a widespread political collapse long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived. The last bastion of the Maya fell in the late 17th century due to military campaigns waged by the Spanish forces.
Archaeologist Ivan Sprajc, leading the excavation team, explained that the core area of the Ocomtun site occupies elevated terrain, encircled by extensive wetlands. Within this central region, several pyramid-like structures up to 15 meters in height have been discovered, shedding light on the architectural prowess of the ancient Maya civilization.
Additionally, the city boasted a ball court, a common feature prevalent throughout the Maya region. Pre-Hispanic ball games, played by passing a rubber ball symbolizing the sun across a court without using hands and attempting to score through a small stone hoop, held immense religious significance. The newly found ball court underscores the profound spiritual and ceremonial nature of the Maya society.
Further investigations led the team to the discovery of central altars situated closer to the La Riguena river. These altars are believed to have served as focal points for community rituals, although more research is required to fully comprehend the cultural practices of the ancient inhabitants.
Based on the materials extracted from the structures, Sprajc suggests that the site experienced a decline between 800 and 1000 AD. This decline coincided with “ideological and population changes,” contributing to the collapse of the Maya societies in the region during the 10th century. The reasons behind these changes and their impact on the once-thriving city remain subjects for further investigation.