Archaeologists have made an amazing discovery in Mexico, which could hold the key to one of history’s enduring enigmas. Two pyramids and nine palaces have been found hidden in the jungles of the Puuc region of Mexico’s Yucatan, the birthplace of the famous Maya culture. Experts have described the incredible haul, located at the ancient site of Kiuic, as a ‘Maya Pompeii’ – and believe its sudden abandonment could unlock the mystery of the Mayas, whose highly advanced civilization suddenly imploded around a thousand years ago.
The project, led by Mexico‘s National Institute of Archaeology and History, unearthed an intriguing cache of tools in the hilltop palaces which includes weapons like axes and knives, and agricultural tools such as pots and corn-griniding stones called metates. One of the two pyramids even sat atop one of the palaces, which shows the evolution of Maya residences from the pragmatic to the
extravagant. Experts know the Maya inhabited Puuc from around 500 BC. Yet why they suddenly downed all their tools and headed for the coast is one of history’s greatest conundrums.
George Bey, of Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, is the co-director of the Labna- Kiuic Regional Archaeological Project. He claims Puuc’s illustrious past is a product of immigration, but he is less certain about why they suddenly left the wealth of their homeland for Yucatan‘s northern coasts. “It was completely unexpected. It looks like they just turned
the metates on their sides and left things waiting for them to come back,” he says. Maya expert Takeshi Inomata, of the University of Arizona, is confident the discovery will lead to further knowledge on the culture’s dramatic collapse. “(The team’s) finds look very interesting and promising,” he says. “If it indeed represents rapid abandonment, it provides important implications about the social circumstance at that time and promises detailed data on the way people lived.”
However even Inomata is quick to cool any excitable enthusiasts: “I should add that the identification of rapid abandonment is not easy,” he warns. “There are other types of deposits – particularly ritual deposits – that result in very similar kinds of artifact assemblages.” Bey has hailed the pristine state of the discovery, likening it to an ancient time capsule. “The people just walked away and left everything in place. Until now, we had little evidence from the actual moment of abandonment, its a frozen moment in time,” he tells USA Today. “I think you could compare it to Pompeii, where people locked their doors and fled, taking some things but leaving others.”