Lost Mayan City of Ocomtún Discovered in Campeche, Mexico

Ancient Mayan city discovered in Campeche; They name it Ocomtún, “stone column”. Photo by Archaeologist Ivan Ṡprajc.

Ocomtún, discovered deep in the jungle, was likely an important regional center.

Archaeologists in Mexico discovered a lost Mayan city with pyramid-like structures, plazas, and even a ball court, the country’s anthropology institute announced on Tuesday, June 20th.

Archaeologist Ivan Ṡprajc led a team of researchers through 60 kilometers of jungle to uncover the city, which they’ve dubbed Ocomtún, which means ‘stone column’ in Yucatan Maya, according to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH.

The name “Ocomtún” is derived from the large stone columns that were found throughout the site, which researchers suspect were part of the entryways into rooms. 

INAH said the city, which it has named Ocomtún — meaning “stone column” in the Yucatec Maya language — would have been an important center for the peninsula’s central lowland region between 250 and 1000 AD.

It is located in the Balamku ecological reserve on the country’s Yucatán Peninsula and was discovered during a search of a largely unexplored stretch of jungle larger than Luxembourg. The search took place between March and June using aerial laser mapping (LiDAR) technology.

The Maya civilization, known for its advanced mathematical calendars, spanned southeast Mexico and parts of Central America. Widespread political collapse led to its decline centuries before the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, whose military campaigns saw the last stronghold fall in the late 17th century.

Stone facade, left, and stone column from an ancient Mayan city discovered in Campeche state, Mexico
A stone facade, left, and a stone column from Ocumtún, were discovered in Campeche state, Mexico.Ivan Ṡprajc

The Ocomtún site has a core area, located on high ground surrounded by extensive wetlands, that includes several pyramid-like structures up to 15 meters high, lead archaeologist Ivan Sprajc said in a statement.

The city also had a ball court. Pre-Hispanic ball games, widespread throughout the Maya region, consist of passing a rubber ball representing the sun across a court without the use of hands and getting it through a small stone hoop. The game is believed to have had an important religious purpose.

Sprajc said his team had also found central altars in an area closer to the La Riguena river, which may have been designed for community rituals, though more research is needed to understand the cultures that once lived there.

The site probably declined around 800 to 1000 A.D. judging from materials extracted from buildings, he said, adding this was likely a reflection of “ideological and population changes” that led to the collapse of Maya societies in that region by the 10th century.

Source: INAH

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