Changing what we know about Mayans

by Shirley Williams
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The Mayans were walking on the same earth as us thousands of years ago. We find out more about them as we discover their ruins. What is thought to be the oldest and largest monumental construction of the Mayans was recently discovered near Mexico City. The 3,000-year-old platform was topped with numerous structures and a pyramid. It’s one of the most exciting discoveries that leaves many questions about that time.

A technology find

Scientists were able to find this Mayan ruin thanks to light detection and ranging, or a LiDAR survey. By using larser pulses to search under regions, scientists are able to view structures under the surface. This huge discovery was basically hiding for centuries underneath the dense forest ranch lands. The horizontal region is so large that it was tough for anyone to even realize the height of the structure.

The area

This area is known as the Aguada Fenix. It was only previously discovered by using excavations and airborne mapping. The biggest Mayans structures ever discovered have been found in this area. These date back to approximately 1,000 BC to 800 BC.

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A puzzling discovery

It’s a new view for many researchers to see that early Mayans built larger structures than those during the Classic Maya period. When the empire was at its peak from 250-900 A.D., most of the structures are smaller. This discovery was found in the Maya lowlands area, where it is believed the Mayans began. Based on radiocarbon dating, this large platform started construction about 1,000 B.C.

The why

Researchers do not know why they decided to build the large structure. There are not many large buildings at Aguada Fénix. This could mean that people living in the area, maybe even those before the Classic Maya, had to move to hunt and gather their food. They wouldn’t have time to stop and build this structure. This new structure is over 130 million cubic feet. This makes it larger than the biggest Egyptian pyramid. Researchers believe it would take over six years to build if you enlisted the labor of about 5,000 people.

Settling down

Some researchers believe it could’ve been a ceremonial center. This is because there are no residential buildings near the structure. It could also mean the people that built Aguada Fénix were trying to leave their hunting and gathering behind. The evidence of corn cultivation at the site leads to this theory. The one thing the archaeologist s know is that this large structure means people settled in this area. This discovery means people collaborated to build a huge structure for some reason. Some researchers believe it was built to bring generations together for one purpose. Archaeologists state that there were layers used to build the platform. These layers were laid down in different soil colors making a checkerboard pattern. This could mean that different groups used different colors of soil.

The large structures gone

The large structure at Aguada Felix was abandoned by 750 B.C. The Classic Maya period 1,000 years later means they were now building taller pyramids. These were only accessible to the elite class. The smaller platforms were where bigger communities were to get together. No one may ever know why the Mayans chose to leave behind such a large, exquisite structure.

Changing what we know

The impact of this new Mayan ruin could be huge. It is opposite of what scientists thought about the entire area. They believed Mayans live in tiny villages before they decided to build larger areas. They had no idea that Mayans built these huge areas in the older days. Scientists also realized that there were no sculptures on the platform. This could mean that the Mayans were much more communal at this time instead of relying on royalty at the later stages. This Mayan discovery has changed how we think about the Mayans as a whole.

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