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Archaeologists unlocking mysteries of ancient Mayan city in southeast Mexico

By Martha Lopez Huan

Merida, Mexico, May 27 (EFE).- An ancient Mayan city occupied between 1,400 and 1,100 years ago was discovered four years ago amid the low rainforest of the southeastern Mexican state of Yucatan.

Since then, a group of archaeologists have been cataloging the riches of that site – known as Xiol (Spirit of Man) in the Mayan language – and working to understand the full significance of a locality that was home to more than 4,000 people, including priests, scribes, dignitaries and commoners.

The palace-type buildings constructed in the Mayan Puuc style – discovered in 2018 by 24K, a company that is developing an industrial park in the northern Yucatan municipality of Kanasin – are located in the heart of Yucatan’s Henequen zone, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) east of Merida.

“The discovery of this Mayan city is important due to its monumental architecture and because it was recovered despite being located on private land,” Arturo Chab Cardenas, representative of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) Yucatan Center in Merida, told Efe.

The Xiol site boasts a main square that includes a pyramid with two staggered bodies. Another highlight is a zocalo (central plaza) with a palace-type construction that has two entrances divided by a monolithic column.

The city, which corresponds to the Mayan civilization’s Late Classic period (600 AD to 900 AD), also features a cenote that a speleologist-led team will begin investigating in the coming days.

“We don’t know what all we’ll find, because to access that body of water we have to go down about five meters (16 feet),” the archaeologist heading up the work at Xiol, Carlos Peraza, told Efe.

A field archaeologist assisting with those efforts, Wilberth Cruz, told Efe the south side of the archaeological site, encompassing an expanse of around 21 hectares (52 acres), contains a structure with a ramp and an attached section to one side with an altar that was used for ritual activities.

During a tour of the site for the media, specialists presented some older ceramics, including ones from the Middle Preclassic period (700-350 BC) and from the Upper Preclassic and Early Classic (350 BC to 600 AD) periods.

A representative of 24K, Mauricio Montalvo, hailed the importance of the discovery on company-owned land: “First we saw a huge rock and as the excavations were carried out enormous buildings emerged.”

“It was incredible. Then we alerted INAH and later we saw we needed to modify the original project because for our company preserving the Mayan legacy is more important,” he told Efe.

Peraza said for his part that the buildings corresponding to the Puuc style typically are only found at archaeological sites located in southern Yucatan, although the Puuc influence also is seen in some buildings in Chichen Itza, Dzibilchaltun and the Historical Center of Merida

The archaeologist said his team also found small rooms where people lived and workshops where they manufactured construction tools.

“We’ve also found in Xiol around 15 burial places, mainly for adults … with offerings of vessels, necklaces, earrings and other items they used in their daily lives,” Peraza said. EFE


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