Graphic shows location of Aguada Fénix and related archaeological sites, as well as timeline of the main periods of the Mayan civilization.

Vroegste religeuze centrum Maya ontdekt

By Jordi Bou

June 3, 2020 - Archaeologists have discovered the earliest and largest known monumental construction built by the Mayans, shedding new light on the rise of their civilization.

By conducting an airborne survey using LIDAR, a remote sensing method using lasers that creates a 3D map of the surface below, archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and colleagues have discovered a previously unknown Maya site in the Mexican state of Tabasco.

The site, called Aguada Fénix, consists of an artificial plateau measuring 1,413 metres north to south and 399 metres east to west. The construction is 10-15 metres above the surrounding area with 9 causeways extending from the platform.

The size of the main plateau at Aguada Fénix surpasses that of La Danta complex at El Mirador – the largest construction previously known in the Maya lowlands.

Archaeologists previously thought that the Maya civilization developed gradually, with small villages emerging around 1,000–350 BC. However, the recent discovery of early ceremonial centres, such as Aguada Fénix, challenge this model.

Using radiocarbon dating, the authors estimate the structure at Aguada Fénix was built around 950 BC, which makes it the oldest monumental structure found in the Maya area to date.

Until recently, archaeology was limited by what a researcher could see while standing on the ground. But LiDAR technology has transformed the field, providing a way to scan entire regions for archaeological sites.

PUBLISHED: 03/06/2020; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Takeshi Inomata, [email protected]