University of Arizona archaeologists discover secrets of ancient past

UA archaeologists find Mayan site

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A team from the University of Arizona has made an incredible archaeological find that has attracted worldwide attention.

“It’s interesting that nobody knew about this site,” said Dr. Takeshi Inomata, an archaeologist and professor at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Inomata said if you were to stand on the ground in Tobasco, Mexico, you would have no idea that just beneath your feet, is an incredible piece of Maya history.

“So if you walk there, it looks like it’s just part of the natural landscape," Dr. Inomata said.

Dr. Inomata said his team used laser-emitting equipment from an airplane. The laser beams penetrate tree canopies, and their reflections off the ground’s surface can reveal three-dimensional forms of archaeological features. He said this technology helped them uncover the largest and oldest Mayan monument ever discovered.

The newly discovered site of Aguada Fénix lurked beneath the surface, hidden by its size and low profile until 2017. The monument measures nearly 4,600 feet long, ranges from 30 to 50 feet high and includes nine wide causeways.
The newly discovered site of Aguada Fénix lurked beneath the surface, hidden by its size and low profile until 2017. The monument measures nearly 4,600 feet long, ranges from 30 to 50 feet high and includes nine wide causeways. (Source: Dr. Takeshi Inomata)

“This is a very exciting. This really changes our view about civilization," Dr. Inomata said.

He believes the large rectangular area served as a plaza for ceremonies and the causeways may have been used for processions.

“Also we found ritual offerings of precious things like jade axes at the center of the site," Dr. Inomata said.

Team continues to make discoveries of Mayan civilization at monument in Tobasco, Mexico
Team continues to make discoveries of Mayan civilization at monument in Tobasco, Mexico (Source: Dr. Takeshi Inomata)

Their latest finding? A stone sculpture.

Dr. Takeshi Inomata with the University of Arizona said his team discovered this stone sculpture at the largest and oldest Mayan monument ever discovered.
Dr. Takeshi Inomata with the University of Arizona said his team discovered this stone sculpture at the largest and oldest Mayan monument ever discovered. (Source: Dr. Takeshi Inomata)

When you think of Maya civilization, you may picture temples constructed under the orders of a powerful ruler, but Dr. Inomata’s team believes this site in Tobasco dates back to 1,000 to 800 b.c. during a gap in power.

“People got together and worked together and made this enormous space," Dr. Inomata said.

He said this monument measures nearly 4,600 feet and has nine causeways.

While this may be a deep look into the past, Dr. Inomata said these findings serve as an important message for communities today.

“Which tells us that people can do amazing things just by getting together and working together," Dr. Inomata said.

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