Maya Site Building After Volcanic Eruptions

September 29, 2021

Archaeologist Akira Ichikawa, at the University of Colorado Boulder, has found that the Maya returned to sites that were destroyed after a catastrophic volcanic eruption much sooner than thought. He studied the site of San Andrés in El Salvador.

In AD 539, the Ilopango volcano erupted, the largest in Central America over the past 10,000 years, and the largest on Earth over the past 7,000 years. it covered the area around the volcano in waist-high ash for 35 kilometers. It also blew itself apart, leaving behind a deep gash that is now a crater lake.

It greatly impacted the Maya civilization, sending it into a period of decline due to the loss of nearby settlements and cooler temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere. Historians have debated how soon the Maya returned to the area, most suggesting it took hundreds of years. Ichikawa has shown evidence of the Maya returning to a site 40 miles west of the volcano between 30 and 80 years after the eruption. They built a large pyramid using ash and dirt.

Ichikawa analyzed samples from the ground and from the Campana structure, a pyramid resting atop a large platform. He found that work on the structure appears to have begun approximately 30 years after the eruption, though it could have been as long as 80 years.

The data suggests that the Maya returned to the area quickly. They built the pyramid as a way to appease the gods who had shown their anger by setting off the eruption.

The research is published in Cambridge Core has the report here;

The Evolution of Maya Rulership

September 29, 2021

Dartmouth researchers studied the Maya site of Yaxunam and E groups in the Maya lowlands that are astronomically aligned with equinoxes and solstices.

Maya rulers worried the past world would interfere with their authority so they tried to erase the past. The rulers saw themselves as the embodiment of the Sun God and needed to put their persona over their cities. E group sites were built on an east-west axis with a pyramid at the west and a long raised platform at the east. At 400 BCE, E group complexes were built on existing temples, or on top of them. Sometimes, there were 5 or 6 pyramids built over the top of preceding ones. At Yaxunam, precious items like polished magnetite or a ceramic vessel with greenware beads were placed in some of the levels to emphasize continuity.

Other E group structures were ritually destroyed and burned to destroy the energy or soul of a building, and the ashes spread over an area for new uses. Rulers introduced new architecture or massive civic architecture like massive roadways to new districts, creating a more hierarchical politics

The research is published in the Journal Ancient Mesoamerica

Heritage Daily has the report here:

Maya Built Very Modern Water Filtration Systems at Tikal in Guatemala

AUGUST 12, 2021

The Maya built reservoir 2,185 years ago at the site of Tikal, early in its history. It relied on crystalline quartz and zeolite, a compound of silicon and aluminum to create a molecular sieve which removed harmful microbes, heavy metals and other pollutants, and these remained in use until Tikal was abandoned around 1100. Today, the same minerals are used in modern water filtration systems, and not discovered for use in modern times till the 20th century.

Other reservoirs in the area were polluted with mercury from pigments the Maya used on walls and burials. The quartz and zeolite came from 18 miles away. Teams will now look for similar techniques at other sites.

Smithsonian has the report here with photos:

Extensive Ruins Found in the Northern Yucatan With LIDAR

AUGUST 12, 2021

Archaeologists using billions of LIDAR shots at the ground in the Puuc region of the Yucatan have found extensive Maya structures including artificial reservoirs, 1,200 ovens, farming terraces, 8,000 housing platforms, each house having 2-3 rooms. Four large acropolises dating from 700 BCE-450 BCE, civic centers built from 600-750 CE in very distinct city layouts not seen elsewhere. Elite housing was dispersed throughout, and not concentrated. No defensive structures exist. This looks like a very large peaceful community.

They built cisterns to collect rainwater in their limestone terrain, and aqueducts with long channels. They had a widespread stone working industry with quarries and 1,232 circular ovens to heat sandstone to produce lime for mortar and to soften maize for help with nutrients.

The study was published online Wednesday (April 28) in the journal PLOS One.

Live Science has the report here with photos:

The Rise and Fall of a Maya Bannerman

AUGUST 12, 2021

June 24, 726 CE, Ajpach ‘Waal met with the great 18 Rabbit at Copan in Honduras. Ajpach ‘Wall was from El Palmar 200 miles away over rugged terrain, a month on foot away. The meeting was memorialized on a monument at Copan and on a monument at El Palmar. Ajpach ‘Waal’s title was “Bannerman.” He may be buried near the monument. The monument was constructed on September 14 CE. There is a staircase with 164 limestone block glyphs, unusual for a site so small. The ruler of Calakmul is depicted, belonging to the Snake dynasty. Ajpak ‘Waal went to Copan on behalf of the king of Calakmul, perhaps to broker an alliance against Tikal.

Ajpjk ‘Waal was a royal diplomat or Lakam. The possible burial site of Ajpach was very modest. The bones found indicate the life of a man who had malnutrition and possibly scurvy. He had shin injuries possibly related to playing the ball game, and ballplayers are depicted in the glyphs. He had severe arthritis like a Lakam you have hiking long distances over rugged terrain. He had jade and pyrite teeth inlays.

On May 3, A.D. 738, 18 Rabbit was captured and beheaded by rebels from Quiriguá, supported by Ajpach’ Waal’s patron, the king of Calakmul. Calakmul itself then fell to Tikal. After that Ajpach’s standing fell, and he could not pay for a missing tooth with an inlay. His burial place was celebrated with a fire ceremony and maintained by his family. has the story with photos:

Teotihuacan Diplomatic Compound Discovered at the Maya Site of Tikal

APRIL 1, 2021

Archaeologists at the Maya site of Tikal have found buildings and artifacts that appear to be an outpost of Teotihuacan, 600 miles away. The structures were made of earth and stucco that the Maya did not use. Weapons of green obsidian from the area of Teotihuacan, carvings of the Teotihuacan rain god and a Teotihuacan type burial were found. Teotihuacan dignitaries may have lived there during a time of peace before warfare between them began. The area looks too have been built at 300 CE. Teotihuacan conquered Tikal at 378 CE.

On January 15378 CE, a man by the name of Sihyaj K’ahk’, or Fire is Born, into the city on January 16, 378, and on that same day, the Tikal leader Jaguar Paw died. The Teotihuacan army was sent by the Two leader Spearthrower Owl. His son became king of Tikal. He wears a Too headdress and a Two spear in portraits. Maya murals at Teotihuacan were destroyed and buried at 350-450 CE, perhaps from a Tikal diplomatic compound there.

The compound at Tikal were located by LIDAR, and excavations in this area will continue.

Smithsonian has the report here:

Grad Student Uncovers Colossal Ancient Maya Mask in Yucatán

March 29, 2021

The giant mask found at the sit of Ucanha has been dated to the 4th century CE. INAH said the mask was found in 2017 and protected from looters then by not announcing the discovery.

Jacob Welch, a graduate student at Yale University found the mask along with a team made up of Mexican and American researchers, laborers and other students.

Excavation of the mask began in 2019.

Inah has reared the mask which portrays a ruler or deity with a large, protruding nose and an elongated head. Intricately carved symbols flank the face on both sides.

Yucatan Magazine and


Smithsonian Magazine have the reports here with photos:

Maya Ruins in Belize Show Maya Wealth Inequality

March 29, 2021

Archaeologists have studied remains of 180 homes in the Maya site of Uxbenká and 93 homes in the smaller nearby city of Ix Kuku’il, both dated from roughly 250 to 900 AD.

The researchers gauged wealth inequality based on the mix of large and smaller homes, along with the size and nature of the structures.

Wealth inequality begins with food production. The surplus is commanded by a few individuals. They coerce others to provide labor and goods.

The researchers compared their findings to other studies of homes in  ancient cities in Mesoamerica, In Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley, where more collective forms of governance existed, there was less disparity in homes.

Teotihuacan in central Mexico, had lesser degrees of inequality as measured by domestic space than did the Classic Maya sites despite the fact Teotihuacan had a population of 200,00.

Uxbenká and Ix Kuku’il, about 25 miles (40 km) from the Caribbean coast, boasted monumental architecture including temples about 30 feet (10 meters) tall. The foundations of the small houses often measured roughly 13 by 20 feet (4 by 6 meters) and the large ones reached approximately 40 by 66 feet (12 by 20 meters).

The larger ones had more elaborate architecture and imported and luxury goods including jade, marine shell, personal adornments and the volcanic glass called obsidian, used for blades and other purposes.

Classic Maya society featured social groups including royal leadership, nobles, merchants, artisans and crafts people, and a larger number of farmers and laborers. But the Maya had a more despotic system than those in the same time period in the rest of Mesoamerica. has the report here:

WSU Scientists Identify Contents of Ancient Maya Drug Containers

March 28, 2021

Washington State University researchers have detected marigold in residues from 14 miniature Maya ceramic vessels buried 1,000 years ago in the Yucatan. These vessels also contain types of dried and cured tobacco. The marigold would have made the tobacco taste better.

The analysis methods were developed in collaboration between the Department of Anthropology and the Institute of Biological Chemistry to give researchers the ability to investigate drug use in the ancient world like never before.

Mark Zimmermann and colleagues’ work was funded by the NSF, which led to a new metabolomics-based analysis method that can detect thousands of plant compounds or metabolites in residue collected from containers, pipes, bowls and other archaeological artifacts. The compounds can then be used to identify which plants were consumed.

Zimmermann helped unearth two of the ceremonial vessels that were used for the analysis in the spring of 2012. Zimmerman’s team now want to study other ancient containers and the dental plaque of ancient humans in Mexico using the same new methods. This will revolutionize the study of psycho-active drugs in the ancient world. has the report here with photos:

Ancient Maya Used Salt Cakes as Money, New Research Suggests

March 28, 2021

Researcher Heather McKillop has found proof in an ancient 2,500 year old mural at the Maya site of Calakmul, in the Yucatan, that the Maya used salt cakes wrapped in leaves being sold at a marketplace by a salt vendor. Mckillop and her team discovered the first ancient Maya salt kitchens of pole and thatch submerged in a saltwater lagoon in Belize in 2004..

They have mapped 70 sites in the Paynes Creek Salt Works in a mangrove forest in Belize. They found 4,042 submerged architectural wooden posts, a canoe, an oar, a high-quality jadeite tool, stone tools used to salt fish and meat and hundreds of pieces of pottery. They were making a surplus of these salt cakes for trade by canoes up rivers. They were making these in pots in standardized units.

Her paper was published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. Heather McKillop. 2021. Salt as a commodity or money in the Classic Maya economy. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 62: 101277; doi: 10.1016/j.jaa.2021.101277

Sci-News has the story here with the mural:

The Maya at Tikal in Guatemala Built Sophisticated Water Filters

November 14, 2020

A team of UC anthropologists, geographers and biologists identified crystalline quartz and zeolite imported miles from the city. The quartz found in the coarse sand along with zeolite, a crystalline compound consisting of silicon and aluminum, create a natural molecular sieve. Both minerals are used in modern water filtration.

The filters would have removed harmful microbes, nitrogen-rich compounds, heavy metals such as mercury and other toxins from the water, said Kenneth Barnett Tankersley, associate professor of anthropology and lead author of the study.

“What’s interesting is this system would still be effective today and the Maya discovered it more than 2,000 years ago,” Tankersley said.

UC’s discovery was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers traced the zeolite and quartz to steep ridges around the Bajo de Azúcar about 18 miles northeast of Tikal. They used X-ray diffraction analysis to identify zeolite and crystalline quartz in the reservoir sediments.

Maya cities were built atop porous limestone that made ready access to drinking water difficult to obtain for much of the year during seasonal droughts.

“They had settling tanks where the water would be flowing toward the reservoir before entering the reservoir. The water probably looked cleaner and probably tasted better, too,” he said.

In a related paper published earlier this year in Scientific Reports, UC’s research team found that some reservoirs in Tikal eventually became polluted with toxic levels of mercury, possibly from a pigment called cinnabar the Maya used on plaster walls and in ceremonial burials. Corriental remained free of these contaminants.

Complex water filtration systems have been observed in other ancient civilizations from Greece to Egypt to South Asia, but this is the first observed in the ancient New World,

Ancient Maya reservoirs contained toxic pollution: study
More information: Kenneth Barnett Tankersley et al, Zeolite water purification at Tikal, an ancient Maya city in Guatemala, Scientific Reports (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-75023-7 had the report here:

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Maya Sweatbath in Guatemala Contains Child Remains

October 24, 2020

Archaeologists working at the Maya Site of Xultun in Guatemala working at the site of a sweat bath there uncovered a trove of bones and tools. The sweat bath is called Los Sapos, the embodiment of a toad-like Maya Goddess linked to the cycle of birth and creation. The archaeologists working there are from the Smithsonian Tropical Institute (STRI) and the Archaeology Program at Boston University.

The sweat bath dates to 250-550 CE. A detailed representation of “ix.tzuz.sak,” the Maya Goddess, is shown in squatting position with legs decorated like iguanas and cane toads. The reptilian goddess is here expressed as a physical space.

Uncovered at the new excavation are the remains of child, puppy, birds, toads, iguanas and other young animals. The goddess was seen as one who could take revenge if displeased. The offerings were an attempt to appease her for their survival. has the story here with photos:

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New Research on the Maya Use of Sting Ray Spines

August 27, 2020

The Maya practiced auto sacrifice of blood by their rulers to connect to the supernatural. Blood sustained the gods. Bloodletting opened a path to the supernatural world bringing trances and visions. Stingray spines connected the sea with the waters of the underworld.
Foreign material on the spine can cause necrosis. But the ruler risking his life Was a way of attaining privilege. This kind of bloodletting probably only took place to try and achieve divine favor. The ruler was on the line between life and death. And the ruler became a mediator with the gods.

Jstor has the report here;

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Large Scale Research on Food Remains over 2000 Years at the Maya Site of Ceibal, Guatemala.

June 13, 2020

35,000 tiny bone and shell fragments from the Maya site of Ceibal (1000 BCE-1200 CE), Guatemala reveal the ups and downs of the Maya during their 2000 years. Researchers from Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the University of Arizona, the University of Ibaraki, Japan and Guatemala’s Institute of Anthropology and History and Universidad de San Carlos took part in the study.

They found a dramatic shift in diet from apple snails and mollusks to vertebrate such as deer. Perhaps diverting water for irrigation dried up water sources There were many different dogs, and indications that some were eaten.

An adult male buried at 700-450 BCE was buried with hundreds of apple snails, maybe a burial feast. The shift to fish, turtle and deer happened 2000 years ago. There is evidence of deforestation and erosion around 200 CE which destroyed wetland habitats. The number of turtles found indicate the Maya at Ceibal may have imported turtles. The elite consumed deer and lower classes ate armadillo, rabbits, pacas, agoutis, possums, raccoons, weasels and armadillos, anteaters and even an occasional peccary or tapir.

A few entire dog skeletons were found intentionally buried under the floors, leading to the idea that some dogs may have been pets.

Turkeys were imported after the Pre-Classic, probably from Central Mexico.

Ceibal elites wore feline paws and skins on stelae. In a trash heap behind the royal palace, researchers discovered margay and kinkajou mandibles, the arm of an anteater, a bull shark tooth, and sea urchin spines, perhaps also the remains of costumes or other royal paraphernalia.

“Then suddenly everything stopped around 950 AD during the famous ’Maya Collapse’ when all the cities were abandoned,” Sharpe said “Only a few people occasionally returned to the edges of the site in the centuries after that.”
“The focus of Maya archaeology up until now has been large monumental sites, and especially the royal elites during the Classic period,” Sharpe said. “We hope to excavate residences and older sites to get a better idea of what society was like for the majority of the Maya people.”

The research is published in the journal PLOS One.

Smithsonian has the report here with lots of slides;

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June 3, 2020


LIDAR has uncovered a site called Aguada Fenix in Tabasco, Mexico dated to 1000-800 BCE. It stand 8-10 meters high with nine causeways leading to it. It is larger then the pyramid of Giza. Jade axes and other artifacts have been found. There are no sculptures of elites at the site and the structures there may have been built largely by migratory peoples.

CNN has the report here with photos;

Lead archaeologist Takeshi Inomata, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona uncovered the site using LIDAR after seeing a map published in 2011 covering a large area of Tabasco and Chiapas. Dr. Inomata could see sites below the jungle canopy, and using LIDAR from the information on this map has found 27 previously unknown sites. These sites had construction styles never seen before.

Dr. Inomata and his team began studying Ceibal to understand the relationship between the earlier Olmec culture and the Maya. Ceibal had many Olmec style artifacts. So the team spread out from Ceibal. And they found the 2011 map which made the job much easier.

And they are uncovering rectangular platforms that are low, and some two-thirds of a mile long. These newly discovered 27 sites are also contemporaneous with Ceibal at 1000-800 BCE. The amount of labor involved in building these structures is staggering. And they were built with mobile populations in massive communal enterprises.

A NY Times report in 2019 talks of the early work by Dr. Inomata in the area using the free map they used to locate the new sites.

The new huge pyramid at Aguada Fenix was built of earth and clay. It is a quarter-mile wide and nine-tenths of a mile long. Besides the nine large causeways, there is a series of reservoirs linked to the structure.

The Guardian has that report here; has a video here;

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Oldest Bonfires on the Yucatan Peninsula Discovered

May 20, 2020

UNAM/INAH researchers have discovered the oldest traces of bonfires in the Yucatan region in the cave of Aktun-Ha in Quintana Roo. The fires are 10,500 years old. The now underwater cave was dry at that time. 13,000 years ago, migrants from central Mexico arrived in Quintana Too. 8 skeletons have been found with skulls different than the native inhabitants, adapted to a colder climate and weighing less and smaller.
The caves were used by the inhabitants for funeral and ritual activities.

The entrance to the now flooded cave is through a cenote. The researchers had to ensure the coals they found were not transported by water to the site. Various scientific testing method proved that the age of the fires was determined to be 10,500 years old and were produced right there.

The research is published in the journal Geoarchaeology. The work was financed by UNAM, the University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and the National Geographic Society.

The Yucatan Times has the story with photos here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya in Quintana Roo Magazine

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Calusa People Stored Live Fish in Watercourts

April 6, 2020

The Calusa were a huntergatherer/fisher society in Florida and the island of Mound Key

New research indicates they captured and stored fish in walled structures called watercourses made of shell and sediments. They walled off parts of an estuary for short term holding before eating, smoking or drying the fish.

Remote sensing has revealed two large shell mounds, a grand canal, and two large watercourses. A marine highway of 2,000 feet long and 100 feet wide bisected the key. There was a yards long opening to drive fish into the enclosures which would be closed with a gate or net. These structures were built at 1300-1400 CE

The research was published in PNAS;
Victor D. Thompson et al. Ancient engineering of fish capture and storage in southwest Florida. PNAS, published online March 30, 2020; doi: 10.1073/pnas.1921708117

Sci-News has the report here.

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Exciting New Research on Teotihuacan/Maya Events at Tikal

March 31, 2020

On January 16, 378 CE, Sihyaj K’ahk’ (SEE-yah Kak), or Fire is Born entered Tikal in Guatemala. He may have been from Teotihuacan and may have entered with an army. Maya monuments at the site record the event. Chak Tok Ich’aak, or Jaguar Paw, the long-reigning king of Tikal, died on the day he arrived. He may have been sent by Spearthrower Owl whose son became king of Tikal within 2 years. His name was Yax Nuun Ayiin, He has a Teotihuacan style atlatl and headdress, and the images of him and his father at Tikal are drawn in a Teo style. Tikal became very powerful thereafter.
There is controversy about these interpretations. The new rulers may have been Maya royalty who adopted Teo symbolism.

A team of archaeologists have uncovered the evidence of a giant feast dated at 300-350 CE, They have excavated so far 10,000 ceramic pieces and an additional 250 pieces are excavated each day. They believe Maya and Teotihuacano guests were at the feast together, The team has excavated a compound of buildings with vivid murals. Perhaps the Teotihuacano guests were diplomats and nobles sent to cement royal marriages and alliances. Decades after the feast, the murals were smashed and buried. Faces were obliterated. This destruction took place at 350-400 CE.

Nearby, a mass burial has been found, the bodies in pieces. Some skulls have flat backs and dental jewelry that are Maya in style. DNA and dietary isotopes will be taken to see if these are Maya people. The bones were dumped in the burial pit at the time of the feast. 

There is evidence that the new ruler at Tikal expanded his influence over a wide area.  Teo style murals show up at Holmul 25 miles away. Friendly kings were established at many Maya cities. But there is little evidence of Teo people living at Tikal. Sihyaj K’ahk may have been a Maya usurper using the Teotihuacan attire and symbolism to enhance his power. Isotopic analysis shows he grew up near Tikal. Other archaeologists are looking for real evidence of a Teotihuacan conquest. LIDAR has found possible fortifications with watch towers nearby Tikal. Excavations of these sites will begin in May. They may find whether these places were built by the Teotihuacanos or the Maya.

The detailed report on this new and exciting research is published in Science magazine with photos;

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The Ancient Chiapas Site of Sak Tz’i’ Research

March 23, 2020

A local farmer in Chiapas found a 2 by 4 feet ancient Maya tablet in the community of Lacanja Tzeltal. It turned out that this tablet is at the Maya site of Sak Tz’i’. This place is referenced in sculptors and inscriptions across the Maya world. The tablets tell a story about a water serpent, unnamed gods, a mythic flood and accounts of the births, deaths and battles of ancient rulers. The tablets meanings were announced at Brandeis University. The site was on the border between Mexico and Guatemala.

It was settled in 750 CE and was occupied for more than 1,000 years. It was protected by a stream with a steep ravine on one side and defensive walls on the other side. It probably made alliances for protection. There is a figure of a dancing figure on the excavated tablet, probably of the god Yoopat, associated with violent storms. He is holding a lightning bolt axe and a stone weapon. Another sculpture at the site tells of a fire at the site during a conflict.

Since summer of 2018, when the local farmer found the tablet, archaeologists have excavated pyramids, a royal palace, a ball court and a ceremonial plaza. One pyramid has carved stelae around it. Lidar will be employed for further research.

The research is published in the December 2019 Journal of Field Archaeology.

Live Science has the report here with photos.

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Surprising Lidar Discoveries in the Yucatan

March 7, 2020

Archaeologists at Miami University and the Yucatan have carried out the first lidar study of the 80 mile stone highway (sacbe) that connected the Maya sites of Coba and Yaxuna in the Yucatan. The researchers believe that the road was commissioned by Lady K’awiil Ajaw, ruler of Coba, at the end of the 7th century. The lidar found 8,000 structures along the sacbe. They found that the earlier Carnegie Institute study theorizing the road was a straight one was wrong. The sacbe veered to connect other sites along the way.

So they have found many new towns and cities. It appears that Lady K’awiil Ajaw built the road to invade Yaxuna. She is depicted in stone carvings, beginning in 640 CE, trampling over bound captives. The large city of Chichen Itza was beginning to dominate the area, and Lady K’awiil Ajaw may have built the road to get a foothold in the area against Chichen Itza. She is documented as conducting wars of territorial expansion.

The team is excavating household clusters on the edge of Coba and Yaxuna along the Great White Road to find similarities in goods between the two sites.

The report is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. has the report here with a few photos;

Secret Passage Discovered In Maya City Of Uxmal

February 22, 2020

INAH has discovered a walled up passage in the Governor’s Palace at Uxmal dated at 570-770 CE. They found a Chaac mask and three staircases and two Maya arches that may correspond to the earliest architectural style at Uxmal. This passage shows us the Palace was divided into three segments linked by vaulted corridors. In the 10th century, conflict with Chichen Itza may have led to restricting access  to protect the Puuc dynasty by way of walking off this passage.

The report was printed in the Yucatan times and reprinted at archaeology news network with many photos;

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A Vast Palace Structure Uncovered at the Maya site of Kaluba in the Yucatan

December 30, 2019

INAH has unearthed a vast Maya palace at the site of Kaluba, in the Yucatan. There are six rooms in the structure. It is part of a larger complex that also includes two residential rooms, an altar and a large round oven. Archaeologists have also uncovered remains from a burial site, and hope forensic analysis of the bones could provide more clues about Kulubá’s Mayan inhabitants.

The palace was in use from 600-900 CE, and then again from 850-1050 CE. The structures uncovered are just part of the vast complex yet to be uncovered.

INAH is considering bringing back some of the forest cover to protect the site from the elements.

The Guardian has the report here with photos and a video;

Human Bones at the Maya Site of Uxul Researched

December 15, 2019

Maya archaeologists found human bones in a water reservoir in the Maya city of Uxul in 2013. They were killed and dismembered at 600 CE. UNAM has carried out a strontium isotope analysis. Some of the dead came from 95 miles away in Guatemala. Some were locals of high status with jade and engravings on their teeth. Most of the bones had cuts and injuries done by stone blades. The victims were beheaded and dismembered before being thrown into the reservoir. The body parts were widely scattered to destroy the physical unity of the individuals.

This kind of ritual was carried out on prisoners of war to display the power of the victor. has the report here.

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2019 Massive Maya Field Projects to Survive Floods and Droughts Discovered

October 11, 2019

The Maya of Belize acted to limit population and environmental pressures by creating massive agricultural features, burn events and farming to increase atmospheric CO2 and methane. Researchers found that the Bird of Paradise wet fieled complex was five times larger than thought. Using Lidar to map the ground, the researchers saw the huge fields and canals that the Maya built to ward off the effects of rising sea levels and drought.

The Maya converted forests to wetland field complexes and canals to manage water quality and quantity.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Archaeology News Network has the report here;

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August 21, 2019

INAH Uncovers a Fortress Wall Around Uxmal

INAH has found a two mile long fortress wall surrounding the site of Uxmal in the Yucatan. It is now covered by thick jungle, but INAH is talking of restoration. More than half of Uxmal is still uncovered.

A drawing of the wall was printed in John Stephens’ “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan” in 1841. The wall was not searched for again till recently.

The wall was for defense and marked off the elite population from the rest. The elite lived inside the walls. The wall had 20 entry points and rainwater tanks. Some of it was built hastily as if to protect against imminent danger.

Maya settlements in Mayapán, Chichen Itza and Tulum were also walled in,

The Yucatan Expat Life has the report here;

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August 13, 2019

New Research on the Dead Found in the Great Cenote at Chichen Itza

Tooth enamel from the over 200 sacrificial victims found in the great cenote at Chichen Itza show that they came from the area and all across Mexico. Immigrants were coming to the area from all across Mexico during Chichen Itza’s heyday. The city hosted a population of 50,000 in the Mesoamerican post-classic, after 900 CE. Half of the victims found in the cenote were children between 4-6 years of age.

The victims show evidence of flaying, impalement, skinning. Their bodies look to have been displayed before being thrown into the denote. Some were also displayed on skull racks.

Scientific methods on the tooth enamel of 40 of the victims was carried out. These show that some of the victims came from as far away as Honduras, Cholula and Tula in central Mexico, Veracruz, and from local areas. This proves that Chichen’s influence spread across all of Mesoamerica.

The American Journal of Physical Anthropology Magazine published the research. has the news of the report, with the scientific analysis used by the researchers.

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August 6, 2019

New Research on Maya Total Warfare

New research on the Maya carried out by the University of California, Berkeley, and the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that the Maya used scorched earth military campaigns, destroying everything in their path, including cropland, at the height of their Classic age. This goes against the idea that this was only a response by the Maya during their decline.

Researchers found an inch-thick layer of charcoal at the bottom of lake Laguna Ek’Naab in Guatemala, and the burning of the city Witzna. This took place at 690-700 CE. The event is recorded with the date May 21, 697 CE of a burning campaign recorded on a stone stela at the rival city of Naranjo. The proof of the fire by the new research coinciding with the written record is an amazing proof in the ancient Maya world. Seven meters of sediment cores under the lake matches the burning of Witzna’s monuments. Human activity at Witzna decreased dramatically after the event. The event coincides with more evidence of mass burials, fortified cities and large standing armies throughout the Maya world at the same time.

It appears that total warfare was not the cause of the Maya collapse, since total warfare was a constant across the Maya era.

Three other references to “burning” are mentioned in the same war statement, referencing the cities of Komkom, K’an Witznal, and K’inchil, location unknown. These cities may also have been decimated,

The researchers note that it is known that the conquest of Bahlam Jol/Witzna was set in motion by a queen of Naranjo, Lady 6 Sky, who was trying to reestablish her dynasty after the city-state had declined and lost all its possessions. She set her seven-year-old son, Kahk Tilew, on the throne and then began military campaigns to wipe out all the rival cities that had rebelled, Estrada-Belli said.

The research is published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour

The report is at EurekAlert;–mmw080519.php

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July 14, 2019

New Research on Maize and the Maya Collapse

Researchers studied the remains of 50 human burials at Cahal Pech, Belize. The burials ranged from 735 BCE-850 CE. In the earliest periods, elites and commoners had a diverse diet that included maize, wild plants, and animals. This food diversity helped insulate the population in a 300-100 BCE drought. Then at 750-900 CE, the need for intensive agriculture due to population expansion led to increasing reliance on maize.

The elites demanded increased maize production on the local population. Then another severe drought came from 750-900, and the over-reliance on maize gave the population less food flexibility, and the collapse happened.

The research is reported in Current Anthropology;
“The Role of Diet in Resilience and Vulnerability to Climate Change among Early Agricultural Communities in the Maya Lowlands”

Archaeology News Network has the report here;

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June 17, 2019

Earliest Maya Entry Into Teotihuacan Uncovered

INAH has revealed new research concerning the entry of the Maya into Teotihuacan, at a conference in Mexico City, headed by renowned University of Arizona Teotihuacan archaeologist Saburo Sugiyama. 2,400 remains of human skeletons, disjointed, and dismembered, were found at one end of Plaza 50 in the Plaza of the Columns at Teotihuacan. Most were adults, most had cuts and some had their bones carved as tools. Sharpened teeth with dental implants were found.Three skulls were cranially deformed. The dental and skull mutilations are in the Maya style.

A second offering may be the remains of a great celebration. 3,500 bones have been found there, mostly animal bones, and 10,000 ceramic sherds, probably smashed as part of a ritual. 68% were Teotihuacan bowls but many are of Maya design. The banquet was mainly rabbit and quail. Cassava and tobacco are present coming from distant lands.

Wall fragments with Maya style murals have also been found at Plaza 50. They were also ritually destroyed. 1000 of these fragments are being restored and scanned.

Artifacts in the northern mound recovered last summer contained marine elements and sacrificed animals.

95 obsidian objects including projectile points and prismatic blades made at Teotihuacan, and 50 greenstones and 50 marine objects included snails.

A golden eagle that had eaten a rabbit, a puma skull, rattlesnakes and the spider monkey not native to the central highlands were among the sacrificed animals.

Radicarbon dating have been divided into two periods. The first period was between 300-350 CE and a later period, when the Maya murals appear dated at 350-450 CE.

Sugiyama pointed out that 350 CE was the date that three Maya elite individuals were sacrificed at the Pyramid of the Moon. And the Maya murals are in line with the Teotihuacan entry into Tikal at 378 CE.

INAH has the report here (in Spanish) (click on the tiny camera icon for a slide show)

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May 24, 2019

Beautiful Jadeite Tool Uncovered at Ancient Maya Salt Works in Belize

LSU’s Heather McKillop has found a tool made of high quality translucent jadeite with a Honduras rosewood handle at the Maya salt processing site of Ek Way Nal in Belize, where there is a network of 110 ancient salt working sites. Sea level rise has buried artifacts from the salt works.The soggy mangrove soil preserved the artifact. The tool was used for scraping salt, cutting, scraping fish and meat.

Archaeology News Network has the report here, with a great photo of the beautiful tool;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

April 27, 2019

Largest Maya Figurine Workshop Uncovered in Guatemala

Archaeologists at the SAA conference this year have announced the discovery of the largest Maya figurine workshop ever uncovered. It dates to 750-900 CE. The workshop was found at the site of Aragon in Guatemala. The workshop itself was destroyed by construction work,  but 400 figurine fragments and molds, and thousands of ceramic pieces have been recovered. The site lasted past the general Maya collapse in the region.

Science News has the report here;

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April 25, 2019

Maya Vase Uncovered in Belize with Very Long Hieroglyphic Text

A Maya vase with one of the longest hieroglyphic texts ever found on as vase has been uncovered at the site of Baking Pot in Belize. The emblem glyph for the Maya site of Yaxha in Guatemala appears on the vase. The dedication date on the vase is 812 CE.  The archaeologists found the pot with blades, pendants, ink pots, flutes, and human bones. The vase itself would have been a royal drinking vessel. The glyphs reference the end of Baking Pot, a well as the torching of the Maya site of Yaxha and the flight of the ruler to a place of many mosquitos and flies.

More study of the restored hieroglyphics on the vase will yield more information about the collapse of the Maya.

Archaeology News Network has the report here with photos;

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April 11, 2019

Extensive Ancient Maya Crop Cultivation Uncovered in the Yucatan

Archaeologists at the University of Cincinnati have found evidence of Maya surplus crop cultivation up and down the Yucatan Peninsula. The cultivation followed paths of canals and water channels. At Laguna de Terminos on the Gulf of Mexico, they expect to find sites as they begin excavations. Satellite images revealed blocks along drainage ditches and then LIDAR was used. The area was covered in ancient farm fields. They Maya straightened the channels and connected them, and expanded the fields with hydro-engineering. The LIDAR images showed an ancient Maya road not traveled in 1000 years.

Nicolas Dunning of the U. Of C. Is working with Kathryn Reese-Taylor from the University of Calgary and Armando Anaya Hernandez from Universidad Autónoma de Campeche looking for ancient Maya marketplaces using LIDAR. Large squares revealed on LIDAR may be the marketplaces they are looking for. UC botanists are analyzing the soil for proof of marketplaces.

The Maya probably sold maize and manioc and bolts of patterned cotton textiles in their trade network. The farmers there today are farming low yield pastures that produce far less than the Maya produced 1000 years ago because the wetlands are being drained for pasture land.

Eurekalert has the report here;

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March 10, 2019

INAH Finds Treasure Trove of Maya artifacts in Yucatan Caves.

INAH has found a treasure trove of 155 Maya artifacts in cave chambers in the cave system of Balamku, near Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan. The discovery will help researchers with finding out about the extent of trade in Mesoamerica at the time of Chichen Itza. New methods of cave archaeology will be used in this discovery. Archaeologists will learn a lot about the history of Chichen Itza by way of this find, and it will shed light on the catastrophic droughts that led to the Maya collapse.

National Geographic has the report here with photos and a video;

And the Daily Mail has its usual photo and video collection here;

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February 9, 2019

A Perfectly Perfectly Maya Steam Bath Uncovered at the Site of Nakum in Guatemala

Polish archaeologists have uncovered an ancient steam bath at the Maya site of Nakum in Guatemala dated at 700-300 BCE. The Maya associated baths and caves with the emergence of gods and humans, as entrances to the underworld, and with water and fertility.

The sweat bath had a tunnel to drain away excess water and had stone seating around the bath. Large stones were heated near a fireplace so that water could be poured over the stones for steam. A roof of wood, stones and mortar was built over the bath. The bath was filled over with lime and rubble at the end, perhaps due to dynastic changes at the site. This steam bath is the most perfectly preserved Maya steam bath ever found.

The Polish team at the site have been excavating at Nakum for more than 12 years, and have uncovered graves, temples, palaces, residential buildings, a polychrome frieze and an untouched royal tomb.

Archaeology News Network has the report here with good photos;

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November 25, 2018

First Human Remains Uncovered at the Maya Site of Joya De Ceren in El Salvador

The first human remains have been found at the volcanic ash covered Maya site of Joya De Ceren in El Salvador.. The burial is from the Late Classic era (600-900 CE). These are the first human remains found at the site after 40 years of excavations. An obsidian knife was also found with the remains. The site was buried by a volcanic eruption in 650 CE.
Archaeologists will now extend excavations in the same area the human remains were found.

Archaeology News Network has the report here with many good photos;

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November 21, 2018

A New View of the Coastal Maya

Archaeologists working at the Maya site of Vista Alegre on the Yucatan coast are developing a new perspective on the Maya market system. Vista Alegre is about 100 miles from Chichen Itza, and hundreds of years older. The site was part of a complex network that is revealing a robust system of sea traders, dotting the coastline at 30 mile intervals. Study of the bones of these coastal Maya show that they were healthier than the inland Maya due to their diet of protein rich seafood. Their funeral remains also show their society was more egalatarian, with less elongated head shaping and dental modifications free of jade and obsidian.

The coastal Maya were more of a melting pot of people traveling up and down the coast. Ancient war wounds on the bones of the coastal people show more women killed in violent acts, and many survived battle. The probable explanation for this is that the conflicts on the coast were from pirate raids. And the layout of the sites on the coast points to defenses against marauders.

Recently, researchers uncovered salt works along the Belize coast, and the artifacts uncovered there point to a salt making industry all along the Maya coast. And trading canoes would be laden with salt all along the coastal area. These canoes would also carry Quetzal feathers, jade, shells, and obsidian to transport across Mesoamerica.

Hakai Magazine has the long report here with photos;

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September 20, 2018

Elaborate Altar Uncovered at the Maya site of La Corona

Archaeologists, excavating at the Maya site of La Corona in Guatemala have uncovered an elaborate one ton altar in a temple at the site. It depicts a Maya king, Chak Took Ich’aak, holding a scepter which has two patron gods of the city emerging from it.

It proves that that the Kaanul dynasty or the Serpent Kingdom developed a political movement that allowed them to defeat Tikal in 562 CE, and rule the Maya lowlands for two centuries. The altar also shows a wedding between a princess from the Serpent Kingdom and a king of La Corona. The Serpent Kingdom stretched through Guatemala, Belize, and Campeche, and was defeated in the end by Tikal.

PhysOrg has the story here With photos;

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September 17, 2018

New Captive Game Research at the Maya site of Copan

Mesoamericans used big game animals like puma and jaguars to show status and power, to make references to ritual sacrifice, and for processing into trade products. Researchers are studying five ritual sites at the Maya site of Copan. Isotope analysis  was performed on the bones and teeth of puma, jaguar, deer, owl, spoonbill, and crocodile to determine the diet and geographical origin of the animals. 

They were able to show that wild animals were kept in captivity for rituals, and for trade purposes, and they showed the extent of that trade was larger than thought before.

The Research is published in the professional Journal PLOS.

Science Daily has the report here;

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July 9, 2018

New Structures Found In El Salvador’s San Andrés Archaeological Complex

Japanese and Salvadorean archaeologists have uncovered a staircase in a pyramidal structure called La Campana. They also uncovered a glass and bowl with animal drawings inside  seven pieces of smooth slate placed vertically and in a circle. The structure is darted to 535 CE. Two pieces of jade decorated with two snake heads with their jaws open and tongues forked were also found.

The San Andres Complex is a large site with a monumental area dating to 600-900 CE, with an acropolis, several pyramids and other structures.

Archaeology News Network has the story here with many photos;

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February 2, 2018

Astounding Discovery of Vast Maya Sites and Structures In Guatemala

Archaeologists using lidar technology have found houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications under the Guatemalan jungle. Millions more lived in this area than previously believed.
Speaking to the BBC, top archaeologists had this to say about the discovery;
“I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology,” said Stephen Houston, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Brown University.
“Everything is turned on its head,” Ithaca College archaeologist Thomas Garrison told the BBC.
“He believes the scale and population density has been "grossly underestimated and could in fact be three or four times greater than previously thought”.
"The archaeologists were struck by the "incredible defensive features”, which included walls, fortresses and moats.“
"They showed that the Maya invested more resources into defending themselves than previously thought, Mr Garrison said.”
60,000 new structures have been identified.
Th lidar survey also showed longer and more numerous raised highways than archaeologists knew about, connecting many more sites, showing a heavy trade pattern.
And a previously unknown seven story pyramid was uncovered by the survey.
The site of Tikal was found to be three to four times larger than previously thought.
Archaeologists are not finished with their lidar survey. The new discoveries will take many decades to research.

The BBC gives this report on the discoveries; with photos;

The Daily Mail has its usual great collection of photos and a video here;

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January 18, 2018

Yucatan Researchers Have Found the Largest Underwater Cave System in the World

The Underwater Exploration Group of the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM) has discovered a connection between two large flooded cave systems, Sac Actun and Dos Ojos, in the Yucatan. This joined cave system is the largest flooded cave system in the world, stretching 215 miles. There are more than a hundred archaeological contexts contained within the cave, from the remains of some of the First Americans to the Maya culture. The director of the project has been looking for this connection for 14 years. Project researchers are looking for more connections to three more underwater systems. They will study the water quality of the system and continue mapping the cave system.

National Geographic has the report here with a video;

Daily Mail has its usual great photos of the site here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Maya World

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December 18, 2017

New Research into Female Figurines in Ancient Tabasco

Archaeologists at the site of Jonuta in Tabasco which dates to 600-1000 CE have studied over 200 ceramic pieces representing females at the site. Females are shown taking care of children, doing domestic chores, cooking and raising animals. Both elite and ordinary women are shown. A figurine named “The Lady of Jonuta” has a long headdress, and other elite markings. Other pieces are being called “oradoras.” They have raised arms, long skirts, earpieces and bracelets, and loose hair linked to fertility. This representation can be found in ceramics along the Gulf of Mexico coast. Female figurines are also shown as musical instruments such as whistles. The site was probably linked to Palenque for trade. And its goods were also traded to Comalcalco and Jaina.

INAH has the report here (in Spanish) with a good slide show of the ceramics. Scroll down to the little camera icon and click on that to see the slides).

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September 26, 2017

2,500 Year Old Burials Unearthed In Quelepa, El Salvador

Archaeologists in El Salvador unearthed the remains of skeletons dating back to 500 BCE at the site of Quelepa in El Salvador. Four pottery pieces and a metate were buried in the tomb. The site is in eastern El Salvador, the region of the ancient Lenca people who lived in the region from 1,200-400 BCE. They had their own language and pottery styles distinct from the Maya in west El Salvador.

Archaeology News Network has the short report here with remarkable photos of the excavation.

Mike Ruggeri’s The Ancient America’s Breaking News


September 15, 2017

Maya Ruler’s Tomb Uncovered at the Site of Waka in Guatemala

A Maya ruler’s tomb has been uncovered at the site of Waka in Guatemala. It is dated to 300-350 CE. This is the 7th tomb found at the site, and the oldest. A remarkable jade mask was found in the tomb representing the Maize God. There were also ceramics, jade ornaments, and a shell carved as a crocodile. Most are painted red. The tomb was re-entered after 600 CE, when the objects were probably painted.

PhysOrg has the story here with good photos:

Mike Ruggeri’s Maya World

September 10, 2017

Child Sacrifice and Obsidian Blades at Maya Site of Ceibal

Researchers have found 42 obsidian blades alongside the graves of possibly sacrificed children. In one grave the children found were from 2-4 years of age and buried face to face.
In another grave, obsidian blades were placed at the points of the compass with five children aged one to four. More obsidian blades were found on the east-west axis of Ceibal’s main plaza. In May, researchers found the biggest trove of jade artifacts ever uncovered in the Maya world.

The new research is published in the Journal of Field Archaeology,

The Daily Mail has the report here with many photographs;

May 31, 2017

A Large Cache of Jade and Serpentine Objects Uncovered at the Ceibel Site in Guatemala

A new large cache of jade and serpentine objects have been uncovered at the Maya site of Ceibal in Guatemala. 72 polished celts made from jade, metagabbro, serpentine and other metamorphic greenstone were found in the new excavation. They were buried in the central plaza at Ceibal near huge structures. These celts were used to give authority to a new elite. Many were aligned with the points of the compass.

The IB Times has the report here of the article published in the journal Antiquity, with very good photos;

Mike Ruggeri’s Maya World

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February 24, 2017

A Remarkable Maya Jade Pendant from Belize

A remarkable jade pendant was uncovered at the Maya site of Nim Li Punit in Belize in 2015. The archaeologist who found it has published a paper in Ancient Mesoamerica on the find and a second paper in the Journal of Field Archaeology about the excavations. It is the only jade pendant inscribed with a historical text. Nim Li Punit was inhabited between 150-850 CE. While excavating a palace there dated at 400 CE, they found a tomb dating to 800 CE. Inside were 25 pottery vessels, a carved stone representing a deity and the jade pectoral. The pendant is in the shape of a T and the front is carved with a T. This is the Maya glyph for “ik.” It stands for wind or breath. It was found in a T-shaped platform. And one of the vessels depicts a Maya god of wind. The inscription on the back says the pendant was first used in 672 CE. Two bas relief slabs at the site show kings wearing the pendant while scattering incense, carved in 721 and 731 CE. The pendant was buried in 800 CE. At this date, the Maya world began to crumble in Belize and Guatemala. The glyphs show the pendant was made for the Maya king Janaab’ Ohl K’inich. His mother was from the Belize site of Cahal Pech and the father probably came from Guatemala. The glyph story may link the king to the huge site of Caracol in Belize. Perhaps royalty arrived at the site with this pendant.

More excavations will continue.

Archaeology News Network has the story here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Maya World

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January 28, 2017

Ancient Maya Road Network Uncovered in Guatemala

LIDAR images have found an ancient network of reads that run over 150 miles in the Mirador Basin of Guatemala. The site of El Mirador (600 BCE-150 CE) was the largest city-state in the world in size and population at its height. One million lived there in its time. In some years, 200,000 people inhabited the site. The roads have been known since 1967, but the LIDAR images have found structures, terraces, pyramids, canals and 17 roads. The roads are 130 feet wide, 20 feet wide and some extend for 25 miles. The oldest is dated at 600-400 BCE, and the newest from 300 BCE-100 CE. The roads were used to transport food, materials, tribute armies. The Mirador complex collapsed in 150 CE. has the report here

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January 24, 2016

New Research on the Maya Collapse

University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his team, working at the Maya site of Ceibal in Guatemala (1000 BCE-950 CE), have found evidence of two collapses at the site. They have compared ceramics at the site with radio-carbon dates to form a precise history of the site. They found a collapse happened around 150-300 CE and a second collapse at 800-950 CE. They found that violent warfare intensified at 75 BCE-735 CE. These conflicts led to unrest and disintegration across the Maya lowlands during this time. After the first collapse, centralized power increased with strong dynasties based on divine rulership. The second collapse saw decentralization and more seaborne trade. The research will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal.
The report is published here;

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December 21, 2016

Giant Shark Teeth Fossils and Maya Religion

Archaeologist Sarah Newman published a paper in Antiquity called “Sharks in the Jungle: real and imagined sea monsters of the Maya.”
She has explained that the giant teeth of an extinct shark species were used by the Maya as sacred offerings at several Maya sites. Ancient Maya depictions of a sea monster called “Sipak,” also known as Cipactli among the Mexica have a single giant tooth that looks like the tooth of the shark species fossils. The Maya word for shark is “Xook.” This name was taken by some Maya royalty, Yax Ehb Xook ("First Step Shark”) at Tikal and Yax Ehb Xook ("First Step Shark”) at Yaxchilan. The interconnecteness of the shark teeth with myths across Mesoamerica are an indication of long distance religious influences.

Live Science has the report here with photos;

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November 17, 2016

New Discovery at the Kulkulcan Pyramid at Chichen Itza

Archaeologists have found a third pyramid buried underneath the Kulkulkan pyramid at Chichen Itza, Yucatan. A second pyramid had already been discovered underneath. The third pyramid was built between 550-800 CE. The middle one was built between 800-1000 CE. The standing pyramid was built between 1050-1300 CE. The pyramid is also built above a cenote. The third pyramid was found using tri-dimensional electric resistivity tomography.

(My note; In Mesoamerica, there was often ritual destruction of large monuments based upon a religious calendar. New pyramids atop old ones could also be the result of a new leader and a new style of architecture. Building above a cenote probably connotes that the pyramid or person/persons buried in the pyramid are put in touch with the afterlife through the cenote).

The Guardian has the report here;

The Daily Mail has its usual fine set of photos of the discovery;

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November 11, 2016

Royal Maya Retreat Found in Guatemala

Archaeologists have found a rural luxury retreat at the site of Becujal in Guatemala. There is a luxury residence and two pyramids on the site. Inscriptions there link the complex to a Maya ruler called Great Fish-Dog Turtle. His base was five miles away. This is the first country resort ever found belonging to a Maya ruler. A sacrificed baby was found at one temple. Bejucal had two courtyards with residential rooms. A large tomb dated to 350-450 CE was found beneath one pyramid. The site has many looters tunnels too dangeroud to explore for now.

USA Today has the story here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

October 18, 2016

Major Finds at the Maya Site of Holmul

Archaeologists at the site of Holmul have found two unlooted tombs underneath two pyramids. The finds date to 650-700 CE. They found an artifact related to the Snake Kings dynasty named after the snakehead emblem of their house. They lived 100 miles to the north. In one tomb, they found the remains of a middle aged person with jade inlayed teeth and an inscribed tibia. A carved frieze near the tomb depicts five rulers, a conch shell that was used as a scribe’s inkpot, and artifacts made of jade, obsidian, human bone, ceramics and marine shells. The second tomb in a separate pyramid also contained a middle aged person, a masonry bench, ceramics, bone and jade. The jade artifact has the name of a Snake King, “Yuknoom Ti’ Chan from Dzibanche. There appears to have been a civil war among the Snake King, and Tikal eventully overthrew them. New Technology is going to find more great Maya cities.

The Guardian has the story here with great photos;

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October 14, 2016

New Maya finds in Guatemala  

Tulane and Del Valle University archaeologists have uncovered more artifacts at El Achiotal in Guatemala. A six foot tall stucco mask was found in the largest pyramid dated at 100 BCE at the site. It still has its polychrome decoration depicting the Bird Deity. Half of the pyramid is still to be excavated.
The same archaeologists, working at Holmul in Guatemala, have excavated two tombs untouched by looters with pottery, a jade jewel with the name of a distant Maya ruler.

Heritage Daily has the report here;

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July 29, 2016

The Largest Maya Tomb Ever Found in Belize

The largest tomb of a Maya ruler ever found in Belize has been uncovered at Xunantunich. Archaeologists have found the skeletal remains of the ruler, a male between 25-30 years of age. Buried with him are the remains of a deer or jaguar, ceramics and jade stones. Archaeologists have been working at Xunantunich for a century and this is the first tomb they have ever found there.

The National Reporter of Belize has the report;

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July 25

Water Tunnels Found at Palenque

INAH Archaeologists have found underground water tunnels under the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque. They believe that the pyramid was deliberately built atop the spring. The tunnels led water from under the funeral chamber of Pakal into the esplanade in front of the temple, giving Pakal a path to the underworld. The tunnel is two feet wide and tall. Tunnels like this have been found at Teotihuacan. The tunnels were detected in 2012 with geo-radar. They were worried about pyramid collapse. They found three layers of stone over the top of the tunnel. A robot has been sent to veiw the shaft.

PhysOrg has the news;

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June 19, 2016

Important Stelae Found at Xunantunich

Archaeologists from the University of Arizona and from Belize have discovered two stelae at the site of Xunantunich. One of them is a panel with heiroglyphs on it. The glyphs show a date of 638 CE commemorating the death of Lady Baz’ek, the wife of the ruler of Caracol, Lod Kantu. He made an alliance with Calakmul, where Lady Baz’ek is from. Caracol was eventually defeated with the help of Xunantunich.

Belize news has the report here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Maya World

April 20, 2016

Large Scale Maya Sacrifice of Children Found in Belize Cave

Researchers have studied 9,566 bones, bone fragments and teeth found in the “Midnight Terror Cave” in Belize from 2008-2010. They have found that most of bones were of children ages 4-10. It is suspected that the children were sacrificed to the rain god. The bones were deposited over a 1,500 year period beginning at 1000 BCE. 114 bodies were dropped near an underground stream, which would have been seen as a path to the underworld. There is no evidence of disease or regular burial present. An underground cave at Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan, was found years ago where the bones found were largely children’s bones.
The findings were presented at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists conference this month.

Science News has the report here;

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February 29, 2016

Belize Cave Structures Research

Archaeologists in Belize are working at the cave of Kayuko Naj Tunich, where there is a group of manmade mounds. The cave is believed to have been the site of accession ceremonies for the Maya Uxbenka polity. Caves are seen as portals to the underworld in Mesoamerica. The researchers believe the mounds were erected for one event or series of events due to the way they were constructed. There is a shrine built at the cave site dated to 240-339 BCE, and it was kept stable till 600 CE. Uxbenka had a population of 1500-2600 at the beginning of the Early Classic. They calculate that 50 people working five hours a day for 30 days were needed to construct the mounds.

Ancient Origins has the story here, with good photos;

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February 23, 2016

New Understanding of the Maya Collapse

Most Classic Maya cities fell between 850-925 CE, a time corresponding with a century of drought. Maya cities in the Yucatan survived. Archaeologists have now studied all 900 Maya sites in the Yucatan by way of calendar inscriptions and radiocarbon dating. The new study changes our understanding of what happened in the Yucatan. There was a 70% decline in calendar inscriptions in the Yucatan during the time of the southern drought. Radiocarbon dates also show that wooden construction also dwindled at this time. There was a short recovery in the 10th century during a time of increased rainfall. Then another slump from 1000-1075 CE during a time of severe drought. The 10th century drought was even larger. After this drought, Maya society in the north collapsed. Chichen Itza and other important centers were abandoned. Low crop yields due to severe drought could not sustain the large population.
There was also inter-city warfare. The Maya had dug huge canal systems to produce new arable land. And they cleared huge forests to make room for their centers. This may have led to more serious problems during the droughts.

The BBC has the full report here;

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February 11, 2016

More Unique Artifacts Uncovered at “Jaguar City” Honduras

The National Geographic team has dug up 200 artifacts from a site in Honduras now known as the Jaguar City. Ornate sculptors of animals, vessels, metates that may have been thrones have been uncovered. Metate legs show Maya style sky bands and unknown glyph styles. The artifacts had been placed on a red clay floor around the sculture of a vulture. Some vessels had death god imagery on them. Signs of mutual breaking of artifacts when the city was abandoned have also been found. The team has found earthworks, plazas, pyramids, irrigation canals, reservoirs and mounds. The culture that created this site is unknown, but it is Maya related in some of its art work, and (my note), some of the art work looks more similiar to Central American art from Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The city was discovered by using lidar technology to peer through heavily canopied jungle from above.

Ancient Origins has the story with photos here;

National Geographic has more photos and a slideshow here of the digs;

(My note: There is a lot of controversy surrounding this dig because of the belief the team was claiming they had found the legendary “White City” of fable. And some folks disliked the Honduran government seeing this as a tourist attraction. At no point did the professional team digging there now make this claim. And all interesting archaeological sites in Mesoamerica are promoted by their host governments for tourism. There is the concern that this pristine wilderness may be ruined by this kind of promotion. And that is a real concern. But archaeologists dig in pristine areas all the time to uncover the ancient history of the Americas. This is real archaeology. The finds are illuminating this culture which has many ties far afield. And the team has announced they have found an even larger site nearby.)

Mike Ruggeri

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News on Tumblr

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

January 13, 2016

A New important Maya related site excavated in Honduras

A Maya site in Honduras is under excavation in the jungle of La Mosquitia by a joint American/Honduran team..  A large number of artifacts have been uncovered. 64 stone artifacts have been uncovered so far at the base of a pyramid. They are mostly stone jars and metates decorated with animal heads and geometric patterns. The culture that resided here is an unknown one. Honduran President Hernanez was allowed to remove a “were-jaguar” head that was part of a metate with legs and a stubby tail. As a result of this artifact, the area of the site is now called the “Valley of the Jaguar.” The area is in a pristine tropical wilderness far from any human habitation. Earlier reports criticized this find as a previously discovered site, but the Honduras archaeological experts are stating this is a pristine site. There is a larger site nearby to be excavated by the same team.

National Geographic has the report here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

November 3, 2015

Further Research at Ceren in El Salvador

The site of Ceren in El Salvador is the best preserved site in Latin America due to its being covered by volcanic ash in 660 CE. The preservation is so great, finger swipes on ceramic bowls and footprints in gardens, bean-filled pots, woven blankets have been found there. The villagers there had freedom in their architecture, crops, rituals, economics. 200 people lived there. 12 buildings have been excavated, including storehouses and workshops. No bodies have been found, perhaps because the villagers may have left at a precursor earthquake, before the volcanic eruption. The villagers traded crops and crafts for jade axes for tool use, polychrome pots, obsidian knives at a public market. There appears to have been a crop harvest festival ongoing when disaster struck. They probably fled on a raised sacbe. White Sacbes were only known in the Yucatan until the discovery of the one at Ceren. Researchers are studying the sacbe for the signs of the exodus south. It appears the sacbe was constructed in family work units supervised by elders. Some households maintained a wood supply for the sweat bath for the community sauna building. Lead archaeologist Payson Sheets found manioc fields at Ceren. The only place intensive manioc cultivation was ever found. It was used for tortillas, tamales, and alcoholic beverages.
The work has been funded by the University of Colorado at Boulder, National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, the Getty Conservation Institute and a number of universities.

The University of Colorado at Boulder has the news report here.

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Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News on Tumblr

October 20, 2015

Zacpeten Arrowheads Show Human Bloodletting

An ancient obsidian arrowhead found at the Maya site of Zacpeten in Guatemala with human blood on it is indicative of a Maya bloodletting ceremony. The Maya were feeding the gods with the life force of human blood. Researchers studied 108 arrowheads from five sites in Guatemala dating from 1400-1700 CE. They found blood on 25 of the arrowheads. Two of the arrowheads had human blood. The rest had animal blood. The Mesoamericans also used jadeite spikes, obsidian blades, stingray spines and shark’s teeth in bloodletting ceremonies.
The research is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Ancient Origins has the story here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News on Tumblr

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

August 14, 2015

Kulkulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza Built Over an Underground River

Using a new method of electrical tomography, UNAM and INAH researchers have found that the pyramid of Kulkulkan at Chichen Itza is built on top of an underground river chamber that is connected to surrounding cenotes. Limestone layers lie on top of the water. The river is to one side of the pyramid, so the pyramid is not in danger of collapsing soon. The pyramid may have been built over the river as the center of the universe, surrounded by cenotes on all four sides, which represent the four corners of the universe.

The Guardian has the story here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News on Tumblr

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

July 18, 2015

Tulane Archaeologists Find a New Stela and Heiroglyphic Panels in Guatemala

Tulane university archaeologists have found a stela dated to 418 CE at the site of El Achiotal in Guatemala. The stela shows an early king. And they also found two heiroglyphic panels at La Corona in Guatemala. The Maya took pains to preserve these carvings. The news was announced at a press conference in Guatemala City. has the short report here with a photo;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

July 7, 2015

Continuing Finds at the Mysterious Structure at El Pilar

The unusual structure found at the site of El Pilar in March, that had been detected by LiDAR, is now being excavated on the ground. There has been damage from looters and a lot of jungle vines that had to be cut through. They have uncovered the four terraces of the structure. The first two terraces were defensive and quarried into limestone to create vertical walls impossible to scale. The central temple at the top is oriented to the east. Several looters trenches have wreaked havoc on the structure, destroying the top of the temple and looters stole the stone that held murals. It will now be difficult to piece together the Maya plan for the site. Ceramics at the site go back to 1000 BCE-250 CE. The site of El Pilar has 2 excavated plazas and hundreds of structures over 120 acres. 20,000 people lived there. Excavations continue at the site.

Popular Archaeology has the report here with photos;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

June 17, 2015

Important Glyph Translation at Palenque

Researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico have deciphered the glyphs on the tomb of King Pakal at Palenque. It says “The House of the Nine Sharpened Spears.” The key was a glyph that looked like a jaguar molar which gave the connotation “edge” as in sharp edged spear. Pakal was born in 603 CE. On the wall are nine warriors with spears.

NBC News has the report here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News on Tumblr

April 30, 2015

Maya Site in Guatemala Found with Grid Design

Archaeologists at the Maya site of Nixtun-Ch’ich in Guatemala, dated at 600 BCE-300 BCE, have found that the city was built on a grid design. A powerful ruler had to have commanded this design. While Teotihuacan was also built on a grid plan, so far, no connection has been found between the two cities. The main ceremonial route runs east-west. 15 buildings were in an exact straight line, including flat topped pyramids. At The end of the street is a triadic structure similar to those found in other Maya cities. The residential area followed a north-south axis. A defensive wall protects the city. Cattle ranchers in the area are guarding against looters.

Live Science has the report here with a photo;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine
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April 21, 2015

New Finds on the Maya Collapse in the South

A team from Yale and other universities looked at climate data in the southern and northern Maya lowlands. The collapse of the Maya in the south from 800-950 CE was partly due to more severe drought in the south. They studied stable hydrogen and carbon isotope analyses of plant wax lipids in sediment cores taken from Lakes Chichancanab and Salpeten, in the northern and southern Maya Lowlands, respectively. They found that the south had more intense drying which led to societal decline in the south. They also found a period of intense drying in the Early Classic (200-500 CE) leading to some larger sites being abandoned and political fragmentation taking place. Teotihuacan entered the area, leading to political re-alignment.
The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
*Peter M. J. Douglas, et al., “Drought, agricultural adaptation, and sociopolitical collapse in the Maya Lowlands,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

Popular Archaeology has the report here:

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient Maya News Magazine
(click on titles or pictures to open articles)

March 26, 2015

Mysterious New Structure Found at the Maya site of El Pilar

Archaeologist Anabel Ford has found a new kind of Maya structure at the site of El Pilar on the Guatemala/Belize border. she is calling “the Citadel.” It shares nothing in common with other Maya structures. The structure was detected by LIDAR. The structure contains concentric terracing and four temples. It is isolated from the rest of the El Pilar site. It is a mystery as to its origins, when it was built and its purpose. Why is it isolated? It could be an early Pre-Classic site or a post-Classic site when defensive fortifications were constructed. The terracing and high location points to a defensive structure.

Popular Archaeology has the report here with great photos;
More on Ford’s work at El Pilar can be found here;

February 22, 2015

More Surprises in a Maya Mural at the Site of Xultun, Guatemala

A mural found in 2010 by a grad student at the site of Xultun in Guatemala, dated to 750 CE, shows intellectuals conversing with a royal governor dressed as the wind god.The mural also gives information about a man buried beneath him. The area below was excavated and the man’s skeleton was uncovered dressed like one of the men in the mural. William Saturno excavated further and found a mural of a king in a blue feathered headdress with a man kneeling before him who was called junior obsidian. Behind them, on another wall, are three black clad men, one who is called senior obsidian. They wear the same headdress and clothing. The murals surprisingly are painted in the residence of a court official and not of royalty. This and much more interpretation of the three walled mural has been published in the February issue of Antiquity.

Live Science has the report here with illustrations of the murals;

January 28, 2015

Underwater Maya Temple Complex Discovered at Cara Blanca, Belize

Archaeologists are working at the Maya site of Cara Blanca in Belize. They have discovered an underwater temple complex. It appears that the Maya at this site were making hurried sacrifices to the rain god Chaak to stave off a continuing drought. Pots and bowls were thrown in by pilgrams coming here to pray for rain. Lisa Lucero is the lead archaeologist at the site, and has been investigating there for four years. Repeated droughts in the Maya realm eventually helped to bring the Maya kings down by 800 CE. The floors of the water temple were sprinkled with sacrificed potsherds and fossil teeth and claws. People also pulled out rocks and fossils from the bottom of the pools and cenotes to incorporate into above ground temples. Human sacrifices also took place in these pools.

National Geographic has the report here with nice photos;

August 17, 2014

Two Large Maya Sites Uncovered in Campeche

A Slovenian team has uncovered two large Maya sites in Campeche. One of the sites had been located in the 1970’s and was then lost, until this new expedition. The sites are called Lagunita and Tamchen. These sites are in a vast unexplored territory in the central lowlands between the Rio Bec and Chenes regions. Lagunita has a ball court and a temple pyramid and massive palaces around four major plazas. There is a huge monster-mouth doorway representing fertility and the earth. 10 stela and three altars with well preserved reliefs with hieroglyphs are present. Stela 2 has the date 711 CE. Tamchen is 4 miles to the north, also with large monuments. It was settled at 300 BCE-250 CE. The number of inscriptions found at the sites are rare for the Rio Bec region. Both sites were abandoned in 1000 CE. But there are post-classic remains. There are many artistic peculiarities at these sites. INAH is working with the Slovenian team. This is a very major find in the Maya realm.

The Slovenian journal Misli has the report here with photos and videos;