Lagunita and Tamchén (Mexico)

Two Mayan cities of the Late Classic discovered in the jungle of Mexico

(English and Spanish, with many photos at the end)

 

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Mail online, Friday, Aug 29th 2014

TWO ancient Mayan cities found in the Mexican jungle after three thousand years hidden from humanity

  • A team from the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts found the ancient cities in April
  • The two cities of Lagunita and Tamchen on the Yucatan peninsula were found by examining aerial photographs of the region
  • According to researchers the two cities reached their heyday in the Late and Terminal Classic periods of 600-1000 AD
  • Researchers believe that there could be dozens more ancient cities in the region which have not been discovered

Archaeologists have found two ancient Mayan cities hidden in the jungle of southeastern Mexico, and the lead researcher says he believes there are 'dozens' more to be found in the region.

Ivan Sprajc, associate professor at the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, said his team found the ancient cities in April.

They made the startling discovery of the two cities of Lagunita and Tamchen on the Yucatan peninsula by examining aerial photographs of the region.

Sprajc said the two cities reached their heyday in the Late and Terminal Classic periods (600-1000 AD).

At each site, researchers found palace-like buildings, pyramids and plazas. One of the pyramids is almost 20 meters (65 feet) high.

They also found a facade featuring a monster-mouth doorway, which probably marked one of the main entrances to the center of the city.

 

Ancient: The remains of a monument in an ancient Mayan city in Lagunita May 30, 2014 is surrounded by trees in the Mexican jungle

Ruins: Archaeologists found the ruins of a hidden city which could date back to 600-1000AD

Industrious: A chultun can be seen here, it was used as an underground chamber for the collection of rainwater in Tamchen

Location: The hidden cities are located in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Campeche, in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula and Yucatan jungle

This image shows a piece of a stela from an ancient Mayan city in Lagunita May 17, 2014 it was a piece of stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for funerary or commemorative purposes

 

Ancient: This Stele or stela featured in many ancient communities including Egypt from and was found in Lagunita on May 18, 2014

 

A photograph released to Reuters on August 22, 2014 shows a piece of a stela at an Mayan city in Tamchen April 6, 2014

Remains: The remains of the monster mouth doorway at Lagunita which has the eye of the earth monster and fangs along the doorway jamb is pictured here after it was uncovered on May 30, 2014 

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/22/the-ancient-mayan-cities-discovered-deep-in-the-mexican-jungle-and-the-secrets-they-hold/

The Washington Post, By Terrence McCoy August 22

The ancient Mayan cities discovered deep in the Mexican jungle — and the secrets they hold

In the 1970s, an American explorer named Eric Von Euw ventured into unexplored forest at the base of the Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula near the border of Guatemala. Called the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, it’s a sweeping expanse of trees and river that extends 2,800 square miles. What Von Euw returned with was remarkable. He had drawn images of an “extraordinary facade with an entrance representing open jaws of the earth monster,” as would later be written of it.

Von Euw would never publish the drawings. And despite several attempts to once again locate the “open jaws of the earth monster,” no one ever could. The site and the city that held it — which came to be known as “Lagunita” — was lost. It would become, according to Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, “a mystery.”

Now, four decades later, another explorer has ventured into the Yucatan jungle to find Lagunita. After a two-month expedition, archaeologist Ivan Sprajc of the Slovenian Academy emerged from the jungle with more than drawings. He had pictures. Along with another previously unknown city he named Tamchen, Sprajc had rediscovered Lagunita. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to have been “the seat of a relatively powerful polity,” a researcher said.

Why had it remained hidden for so long? “The information about Lagunita were vague and totally useless,” he told Discovery News. “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.”

Though his expedition trudged into the forests with machetes, trucks and tortillas, a bird’s eye view is what discovered Lagunita. “We found the site with the aid of aerial photographs,” he explained in a statement, “but were able to identify it with Lagunita only after we saw the facade and the monuments and compared them with Von Euw’s drawings.”

The discoveries make for Sprajc’s second recent find in the region, which is still virtually unexplored and extremely difficult to traverse. Wearing what appears to be an adventure hat, the Slovenian explorer landed upon the ancient Mayan city of Chactun in 2013. Before that discovery, almost nothing was known about the archaeological treasures contained in the forests between the Rio Bec and Chenes regions, which boast architecture dating back to 600 A.D.

Aspects of Lagunita and the other ancient city of Tamchén — which means “deep well” in Yucatan Mayan — reflect the same architectural designs of the broader region, Sprajc said. Both appear to have been abandoned around 1000 A.D., and the most miraculous find was the “profusely decorated facade with a monster-mouth doorway,” the Slovenia Academy of Sciences and Arts said in a statement. They represent “the gaping maws of the earth and fertility deity.”

That sounds fairly profound. But what does it mean? “It represents a Maya earth deity related with fertility,” Sprajc explained in his interview with Discovery News. “These doorways symbolize the entrance to a cave and, in general, to the watery underworld, place of mythologized origin of maize and abode of ancestors.”

The abode of ancestors. Yes, that.

Just six kilometers away from Lagunita lay Tamchen. It’s home to several plazas rimmed by “voluminous buildings,” an “acropolis” and a pyramid-type temple. Some of the findings there signify that the city was first inhabited as long ago as 300 B.C., researchers contend. There were also more than 30 chultuns — chambers as deep as 43 feet that collected rainwater.

The archaeologists said both ancient cities are ripe for further research — as is the greater forest.

“Only future research in the extensive archaeologically unsurveyed region to the north may reveal whether such characteristics, which at the moment appear to be rather unique, were in fact common in a wider area,” the Slovenian Academy said.

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http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/three-ancient-maya-cities-found-in-jungle-140815.htm

Aug 15, 2014 12:01 PM ET // by Rossella Lorenzi

Ancient Maya Cities Found in Jungle

A monster mouth doorway, ruined pyramid temples and palace remains emerged from the Mexican jungle as archaeologists unearthed two ancient Mayan cities.

Found in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Campeche, in the heart of the Yucatan peninsula, the cities were hidden in thick vegetation and hardly accessible.

"Aerial photographs helped us in locating the sites," expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), said.

Sprajc and his team found the massive remains as they further explored the area around Chactun, a large Maya city discovered by the Slovenian archaeologist in 2013.

No other site has so far been located in this area, which extends over some 1800 square miles, between the so-called Rio Bec and Chenes regions, both known for their characteristic architectural styles fashioned during the Late and Terminal Classic periods, around 600 - 1000 A.D.

One of the cities featured an extraordinary facade with an entrance representing the open jaws of an earth monster.

The site was actually visited in the 1970s by the American archaeologist Eric Von Euw, who documented the facade and other stone monuments with yet unpublished drawings.

However, the exact location of the city, referred to as Lagunita by Von Euw, remained lost. All the attempts at relocating it failed.

"The information about Lagunita were vague and totally useless," Sprajc told Discovery News.

"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," he added.

Laguinita was identified only after the archaeologists compared the newly found facade and monuments with Von Euw's drawings.

The monster-mouth facade turned to be one of the best preserved examples of this type of doorways, which are common in the Late-Terminal Classic Rio Bec architectural style, in the nearby region to the south.

"It represents a Maya earth deity related with fertility. 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," Sprajc said.

He also found remains of a number of massive palace-like buildings arranged around four major plazas. A ball court and a temple pyramid almost 65 ft high also stood in the city, while 10 stelae (tall sculpted stone shafts) and three altars (low circular stones) featured well-preserved reliefs and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

According to preliminary reading by epigrapher Octavio Esparza Olguin from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, one of the stelae was engraved on November 29, A.D. 711 by a "lord of 4 k'atuns (20-year periods)."

Unfortunately, the remaining text, which included the name of the ruler and possibly of his wife, is heavily eroded.

"To judge by both architectural volumes and monuments with inscriptions, Lagunita must have been the seat of a relatively powerful polity, though the nature of its relationship with the larger Chactun, lying some 10 km to the north, remains unclear," Esparza Olguin said.

Similar imposing was the other city unearthed by Sprajc. Previously unknown, the city was named Tamchen, which means "deep well" in Yucatec Maya.

Indeed, more than 30 chultuns were found at the site. These are bottle-shaped underground chambers, largely intended for collecting rainwater.

"Several chultuns were unusually deep, going down as far as 13 meters," Sprajc said.

Like in Laguinita, plazas were surrounded by large buildings. These include the remains of an acropolis supporting a courtyard with three temples on its sides. A pyramid temple with a rather well preserved sanctuary on top and a stela and an altar at its base was also unearthed.

Tamchen appears to have been contemporaneous with Lagunita, although there is evidence for its settlement history going back to the Late Preclassic, between300 B.C. and 250 A.D.

"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.

The work is a follow-up to the study of Archaeological Reconnaissance in Southeastern Campeche, Mexico. Directed by Sprajc since 1996, the 2014 campaign was supported by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), Mexico. Lead funding was provided by Ken and Julie Jones from their KJJ Charitable Foundation (USA); additional financial support was granted by private companies Villas (Austria), Hotel Río Bec Dreams (Mexico) and Ars longa and Adria Kombi (Slovenia), as well as by Martin Hobel and Aleš Obreza.

In June 2014, the southern part of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, where Sprajc discovered most of the currently known archaeological sites, was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list as a mixed natural and cultural property.

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thestar.com.my/lifestyle/features/2014/08/26/

26 Aug 2014

Lagunita and Tamchen: Lost Mayan cities back on the map!

The ruins of two Mayan cities that date as far back as 1,800 years ago have recently been found in Mexico.

Archaeologists have found two ancient Mayan cities hidden in the jungle of southeastern Mexico, and the lead researcher says he believes there are “dozens” more to be found in the region. Ivan Sprajc, associate professor at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, says his team found the ancient cities of Lagunita and Tamchen on the Yucatan peninsula in April by examining aerial photographs of the region.

Sprajc says the two cities probably reached their heyday in the Late and Terminal Classic periods (600-1000 AD). At each site, researchers came across palace-like buildings, pyramids and plazas. One of the pyramids is almost 20m high. They also found a façade featuring a monster-mouth doorway, which probably marked one of the main entrances to the centre of the city. Photographs from the sites show stone pyramids jutting out from beneath dense foliage.


Structures from the ancient Mayan city of Lagunita discovered in a Mexican jungle by a team of Slovenian archaeologists. – Reuters

“The entrance apparently symbolises the entrance to a cave and to the underworld. Someone entering through this doorway would have entered sacred precincts,” says Sprajc, who adds that his team has mapped 10 to 12 hectares at each site, but speculates that the cities are probably larger. “We elaborated a map but only of the religious and administrative centres of the two sites – that’s only like downtown.”

His team has yet to excavate the sites. “There are dozens of sites that I already have seen on the aerial photographs,” he adds, noting that additional discoveries depend on further funding. Last summer, Sprajc discovered another ancient Mayan city, Chactun, 10km north of Lagunita and 6km northwest of Tamchen. – Reuters


At the site of the ancient city of Tamchen, the archaeologists found pyramid structures (above) and also wells called chultun (below), an underground chamber for the collection of rainwater. – Reuters

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