Major discovery of oldest and largest Maya structure in Mexico sheds light on the rise of the ancient civilization

03/06/2020
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13:58
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EFE
Major discovery of oldest and largest Maya structure in Mexico sheds light on the rise of the ancient civilization
The archeological structure is located in Tabasco - Photo: Courtesy of Takeshi Inomata

Major discovery of oldest and largest Maya structure in Mexico sheds light on the rise of the ancient civilization

03/06/2020
13:58
EFE
Mexico City
-A +A
The monumental structure dates from between 800 and 1000 B.C.

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An international group archeologists discovered in Tabasco the oldest and largest-known structure built by the Maya civilization, a discovery that unveils the relevance of community work in the origins of this civilization.

Nature magazine published on Wednesday that the enclave called “Aguada Fénix” consists of a platform raised at 10 to 15 meters high, which extends 1.4 kilometers from north to south and from which nine wide roads emerge.

The researchers assert that the vestiges date from between 800 and 1000 B.C., which makes it older than the Ceibal ceremonial center in Guatemala, which had been considered the oldest Maya enclave since it was built in 950 B.C.

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In order to determine its age, the team used LiDAR aerial laser technology to outline the tridimensional shapes of the archeological remains, in addition to the in situ excavations and the carbon dating tests on 69 samples.

“This area is developed, it’s not a jungle; people used to live there, but this site was not known before because it’s very flat and vast. It just seems like a natural landscape. But lidar [technology] revealed it is a very well-planned place,” as asserted by professor Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona, one of the main authors of the research.

The discovery, as explained by Inomata, marks a major change in the history of Mesoamerica and will have several implications.

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Built with the work of many people and without distinct indicators of a marked social inequality, such as sculptures of high-status people, the monument suggests that community work was more important than it was thought in the initial development of Maya civilization.

“There has always been a debate of whether the Olmeca civilization led to the development of the Maya civilization or whether the Maya did so independently,” stressed Inomata.

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The research, which is focused in a key area of the interaction between both communities, suggests that Aguada Fénix was built during a period when there was no set power, a stage in which they could exchange new ideas, such as constructions or architectural style in several regions of south Mesoamerica.

According to the researchers, the fact that constructions like this were built earlier than thought when the Maya civilization's social inequality was not as strong as registered in other periods, will make experts re-think about its creative processes.

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“It’s not only the hierarchical social organization with the elite that made possible monuments like this,” said Inomata.

“This kind of understanding offers us important implications about human capacity and the potential for human groups. It’s possible that there was no need for a well-organized government to perform this kind of major project. People can work together to achieve amazing results,” he added.

The archeologists will continue with the investigation in the area and expect to collect more information in the future about residential areas near Aguada Fénix.

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