Archaeologists Unearthed an Ancient Maya Kingdom in Mexico

A team of archaeologists led by researcher Charles Golden has found the long-lost capital city of an Ancient Maya kingdom. The new discovery has been made in Mexico in the backyard of a cattle rancher.

The finding closed the search for the capital of Sak Tz’i’, an Ancient Maya kingdom that was populated for over 1,000 years. The Maya capital was uncovered by researchers from Brandeis University and Brown University in the state of Chipas, located in southeastern Mexico.

The Ancient Capital of Sak Tz’i’

Excavations on the site began in June of 2018 and have unearthed numerous Maya monuments, treasures, pyramid leftovers, as well as a royal palace so far. Still, the most puzzling of all, the old city had become an active cattle ranch, which had archaeologists working around hundreds of cows.

The site has been named ‘Lacanjá Tzeltal’ by associate professor of anthropology Charles Golden from the Brandeis University. The Ancient Maya kingdom was most probably settled by 750 BC and was inhabited for more than 1,000 years, the team explained. The Maya civilization thrived in the part of the globe since about 1500 BC, and numerous cultural sits still exist all over Mexico.

At the beginning of the 21st century, about 30 Maya languages were still used in the country, and researchers have tried to locate the capital of Sak Tz’i’ since 1994. Some evidence of the lost capital was first discovered on inscriptions and tablets unearthed at other Ancient Maya excavating sites.

The Maya civilization was split into various kingdoms that usually differentiate themselves along tribal lines. In comparison to other renowned Maya sites such as Chichen Itza, the capital of Sak Tz’i’ is not as grand or impressive.

The Importance of Sak Tz’i’

Still, Professor Golden said that the finding would help archaeologists better learn about the sociopolitics of the Ancient Maya. In relative terms, the team said that putting together a picture of the Maya civilization without Sak Tz’i’ is similar to designing a map of medieval Europe without France.

He said: “It’s that big a piece of the puzzle.”

Professor Golden has his team published their research in the Journal of Field Archaeology. The paper is titled “Centering the Classic Maya Kingdom of Sak Tz’i’.”

The paper reads: “The scale of settlement and architecture in the epicenter of Lacanjá Tzeltal testifies to the political importance of the site during the Classic period. Although no complete map exists for any of the previously known capital centers of the Lacanjá River valley, the site is comparable to, and likely more expansive than, Bonampak, Lacanha, and Plan de Ayutla.”

The team was first notified of the future discovery back in 2014. Student Whittaker Schroder from the University of Pennsylvania was on a quest for excavation sites when he came across a roadside food vendor who found an Ancient Maya stone tablet. The researcher was then led to a cattle rancher where the ancient capital was located.

Professor Golden said: “To be truly successful, the research will need to reveal new understandings of the ancient Maya and represent a locally meaningful collaboration with their modern descendants.”

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