In the last known largely unexcavated Maya megacity, archaeologists have uncovered the only known mural adorning an ancient Maya house, a new study says—and it’s not just any mural.
In addition to a still vibrant scene of a king and his retinue, the walls are rife with calculations that helped ancient scribes track vast amounts of time. Contrary to the idea the Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012, the markings suggests dates thousands of years beyond that.
Perhaps most important, the otherwise humble chamber offers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Maya society.
“The paintings we have here—we’ve never found them anyplace else,” excavation leader William Saturno told National Geographic News.
And in today’s Xultún—to the untrained eye, just 12 square miles (31 square kilometers) of jungle floor—it’s a wonder Saturno’s team found the artwork at all.
At the Guatemalan site in 2010 the Boston University archaeologist and Ph.D. student Franco Rossi were inspecting a looters’ tunnel, where an undergraduate student had noticed the faintest traces of paint on a thin stucco wall. Read more.
To cell phone-toting, internet-obsessed citizens of the modern world, ancient cultures may seem difficult to relate to. But a new look at Maya art and artifacts shows one of the most advanced ancient societies allowed women much more contemporary power than previously believed.
“I think the popular belief is that they were restricted to the private household,” said Shankari Patel, an anthropology graduate student at the University of California-Riverside. “The popular belief would be that women stay at home, they didn’t really participate in the rituals that were very important in Maya society. The previous research I looked at left out women completely.”
Patel studied artifacts at the British Museum that were brought to the U.K. from Cozumel, Mexico in the 1800s. Read more.
Construction workers laying new pipes and cables on Burns Avenue in San Ignacio in western Belize have stumbled upon a cache of Maya artifacts dating back more than 2 thousand years. The pottery and human bones were unearthed during work that is part of a $2.7 million dollar beautification project in the small town. The workers were using an excavator to open trenches on the street on Saturday when they made the find. The area is home to the nearby Cahal Pech Maya Site.
Director of Belize Archaeology Dr. Jaime Awe in a statement to the media today explained the find:
“What we have here are three jars or ollas as they call them in Spanish and by the style of it, by the way they were made we know that they date to the late Pre-classic period or between 300 BC to about the birth of Christ so over 2000 years old. The type of artifacts that we are finding indicates household, not elite, not the rulers, they lived closer to downtown Cahal Pech Maya Ruin. Read more.
If you want to save an ancient archaeological site from impending destruction, here is one way to do it: Buy it.
That is exactly what happened in 2011 as the monumental remains of a Classic period Maya kingdom located in northwestern Belize faced destruction from bulldozing. Action from expanding development pressures began to inch closer to three Maya archaeological sites in northwestern Belize, sites that have not yet been badly damaged by bulldozing. One of the sites, known as Grey Fox (named after a type of fox that is indigenous to the area), is located on the edge of a 500 sq. km., low-lying un-impacted forest area known as the Bajo Alcranes. The site contains two large public plazas, each about 100 x 100 meters in size, dominated by a large eastern pyramid and large royal elite residences and viewing galleries, and, adjacent to the plazas, a probable ballcourt.
The area in which the site is located is also home to a large concentration of monkeys, tropical birds, and other wildlife, as well as trees and plant-life that help to make up the important biosphere of the area. Now, under the leadership of Dr. Thomas Guderjan of the Maya Research Program (MRP), a U.S.-based non-profit corporation, archaeologists, preservationists and donors have successfully purchased the Grey Fox site and now hope to protect it for future conservation and research. Read more.
BLAIRSVILLE, GA — Around the year 800 AD the flourishing Maya civilization of Central America suddenly began a rapid collapse. A series of catastrophic volcanic eruptions were followed by two long periods of extreme drought conditions and unending wars between city states.
Cities and agricultural villages in the fertile, abundantly watered, Maya Highlands were the first to be abandoned. Here, for 16 centuries, Itza Maya farmers produced an abundance of food on mountainside terraces. Their agricultural surpluses made possible the rise of great cities in the Maya Lowlands and Yucatan Peninsula. When the combination of volcanic eruptions, wars and drought erased the abundance of food, famines struck the densely populated Maya Lowlands. Within a century, most of the cities were abandoned. However, some of the cities in the far north were taken over by the Itza Maya and thrived for two more centuries. Read more.
In time for the celebration of the Year of the Maya in 2012, the Global Heritage Fund (GHF), a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and development of archaeological sites in developing countries, has officially unveiled the long-awaited Archaeological Development Plan for the Mirador Cultural and Natural System. This system is an area in Guatemala that contains some of the world’s largest pyramids, including La Danta, the world’s largest pyramid by volume, and the large Pre-Classic Maya complex that is touted today by many archaeologists as the birthplace, or cradle, of Maya civilization in Mesoamerica.
Unveiled on December 8th at Guatemala’s National Palace of Culture before an audience of current and past government officials, diplomats, international agencies and foundations, partners, friends and others, the plan provides a framework for continuing archaeological research and preservation of the critical area over the next 15 years. Read more.
The Maya site of Blue Creek in northwestern Belize has been the focus of annual excavations and other investigations since 1992. This effort has produced a massive and important database for understanding the ancient Maya and for broader purposes in the field of archaeology. Most archaeological projects in Middle America are either focused on monumental architecture in the central area of an ancient city or deal with relatively small investigations of the settlement zone surrounding the central precinct of the site. This is generally a function of the limitations on time and funds available for fieldwork and data collection. By contrast, Blue Creek is an exceptional situation as the site has been the focus of on-going, multi-institutional, multi-national and multi-disciplinary research…and will continue to be so well into the future. Read more.
Mexico City - Archaeologists on Thursday were still digesting this week’s announcement of the discovery of a royal kitchen from the time of the Mayas in the Kabah archaeological area, in the south-eastern Mexican state of Yucatan.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which announced the finding late Wednesday, said a large number of pots, stone artifacts and other materials were found in the area, along with evidence of fires.
The kitchen is believed to have been 40 metres long and 14 metres wide, and researchers date it at 750-950 AD, when the pre-Hispanic town of Kabah was in its prime. There is however evidence of a human presence in the area as early as 300 BC, the INAH said.
The kitchen is believed to have been part of a palace. Read more.