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Archaeologist Šprajc's team discovers the remains of a new unknown Mayan city

A research team led by internationally renowned Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Šprajc has discovered the remains of the Mayan city of Ocomtun in the tropical rainforest of southern Mexico, which was an important regional centre of the indigenous society of the time around 1,000 years ago, the ZRC SAZU has announced.

The Ocomtun site

The remains of the city, whose name in the language of the inhabitants meant stone pillar, are located in the Balamku Natural Park on the Yucatan Peninsula. Šprajc's team found them while exploring an unexplored part of the tropical forest, where they were active between March and June. The survey was carried out from the air using LiDAR.

The Ocomtun site has a central area located on an outcrop surrounded by extensive wetlands and includes several pyramidal structures up to 15 metres high, Šprajc said of the discovery, according to Reuters news agency. In addition to the pyramids, the site also contained stone pillars, three plazas with large buildings, a ball field and other structures arranged in almost concentric circles.

The research team also found several altars in the area near the La Riguena river, which may have been designed for communal rituals, but more research will be needed to determine their exact purpose, Šprajc noted.

  • Portrait of Ivan Šprajc.

    Ivan Šprajc is an archaeologist and ethnologist who has focused on Mesoamerican archaeology and archaeoastronomy for many years. Photo: Bor Slana/STA

The Maya civilisation

Ocomtun was probably an important regional centre of Maya society at the time, and probably declined between the 9th and 11th centuries, which is consistent with the decline of Maya culture in the region.

The Maya civilisation, known today mainly for its advanced calendars, stretched across what is now south-eastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and across the western parts of Honduras and El Salvador. It was in decline even before the arrival of Spanish colonialists in Latin America.

Ivan Šprajc is an archaeologist and ethnologist who has focused on Mesoamerican archaeology and archaeoastronomy for many years. He and his research team have discovered a number of previously unknown archaeological sites in the central Yucatán, including important centres of former regional political organisation. Šprajc is also the head of the Institute for Anthropological and Spatial Studies of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU) and a lecturer at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana.

Author: Vesna Žarkovič

Date: 28. June 2023

Time to read: 2 min