Archaeologists have unearthed two ancient Mayan cities hidden for centuries in thick vegetation in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula.
Aerial photographs helped the researchers locate the sites in the southeastern part of Mexico’s Campeche state, near a large Mayan site discovered last year by the same team.
No other site has been found in this 1,800-square-mile area between the Rio Bec and Chenes regions.
One of the newly discovered sites features an extraordinary façade with an entrance that resembles the open jaws of an earth monster, reported Discovery News.
American archaeologists documented the façade and other stone monuments in the 1970s, although their drawings have never been published.
The exact location of the city, known as Lagunita, has remained lost, and previous attempts at locating it had failed.
"The information about Lagunita were vague and totally useless," said expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. "In the jungle you can be as little as 600 feet from a large site and do not even suspect it might be there; small mounds are all over the place, but they give you no idea about where an urban center might be.”
The façade is one of the best-preserved examples of its type, which was commonly found in late-terminal Classic Rio Bec architecture.
"It represents a Maya earth deity related with fertility,” Sprajc said. “These doorways symbolize the entrance to a cave and, in general, to the watery underworld, place of mythological origin of maize and abode of ancestors.”
The researchers found numerous and massive palace-type buildings arranged around four plazas, along with a ball court, 65-foot-tall pyramid, and other architectural works.
One of the statues discovered was engraved Nov. 29, 711, according to a preliminary reading by an epigrapher.
The epigrapher, Esparza Olguin, said the architecture and monuments suggested Lagunita must have been the seat of a relatively powerful ruler, although its relationship to the larger Chactun remains unknown.
The other recently unearthed city, Tamchen, contained more than 30 “unusually deep” underground chambers for collecting rainwater.
Tamchen had a pyramid, acropolis, and courtyard, and the city was surrounded by large buildings.
Evidence suggests it may have been even older than Langunita, possibly dating as far back as 300 B.C.
"Both cities open new questions about the diversity of Maya culture, the role of that largely unexplored area in the lowland Maya history, and its relations with other polities," Sprajc said.
Watch video filmed in the area and posted online by ZRC SAZU:
[Image via ZRC SAZU]