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The Mayans: Discoveries & Theories

If this is the tooth then it's a jaw dropping discovery.

The ancient Maya believed their breath was a link to the divine. To purify it, many people filed, notched, and polished their teeth, some even decorating them with gemstones. Now, a fresh analysis suggests the sealant used to hold these jewels in place may have had therapeutic properties, which could have helped prevent infections.

During the Classic period (200 to 900 C.E.), many lowland Maya people in what is now Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico affixed colored stones such as jade, turquoise, and pyrite to the front of their teeth. Maya dentists drilled holes into the enamel and dentine, then fit the stones and applied a sealant, usually as part of a rite of passage to adulthood.

This dental adhesive has proved remarkably durable: More than half of such modified teeth from archaeological digs still have their stone inlays intact. Previous analyses of the adhesive found inorganic materials similar to cement, and hydroxyapatite, a mineral obtained from ground teeth and bones. These materials helped strengthen the mixture, but likely wouldn’t have been sticky enough to hold the stones in place. The nature of the binding agent has long been a mystery.

So Gloria Hernández Bolio, a biochemist at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico, and colleagues analyzed the sealants in eight teeth found in burial sites across the Maya empire. They used two techniques: One distinguishes groups of organic compounds based on the amount of light they absorb; the other separates chemical mixtures using heat, before counting individual molecules.

Interesting, but the mention of the "Maya empire" demonstrates that the writer knows more about dentistry than Maya history. Still, it's basically a dentistry article, I suppose.
Astronomy of the Maya people.

ZUNIL, GUATEMALA—As the Sun climbs over a hillside ceremony, Ixquik Poz Salanic invokes a day in the sacred calendar: T’zi’, a day for seeking justice. Before she passes the microphone to the next speaker, she counts to 13 in K’iche’, an Indigenous Maya language with more than 1 million present-day speakers in Guatemala’s central highlands. A few dozen onlookers nod along, from grandmothers in traditional dresses to visiting schoolchildren shifting politely in their seats. Then the crowd joins a counterclockwise procession around a fire at the mouth of a cave, shuffle dancing to the beat of three men playing marimba while they toss offerings of candles, copal, and incense to the wind-licked flames.

Poz Salanic, a lawyer, serves as a daykeeper for her community, which means she keeps track of a 260-day cycle—20 days counted 13 times—that informs Maya ritual life. In April, archaeologists announced they had deciphered a 2300-year-old inscription bearing a date in this same calendar format, proving it was in use millennia ago by the historic Maya, who lived across southeastern Mexico and Central America. In small villages like this one, the Maya calendar kept ticking through conquest and centuries of persecution.

As recently as the 1990s, “Everything we did today would have been called witchcraft,” says fellow daykeeper Roberto Poz Pérez, Poz Salanic’s father, after the day count concludes and everyone has enjoyed a lunch of tamales.

Newly published research indicates it was drought that caused the collapse of the central Mayan urban settlement in the Yucatan region.
What Triggered The Collapse of The Ancient Maya? A New Study Reads Like a Warning

Researchers have peered back through 800 years of history to conclude that Mayapan – the capital of culture and politics for the Maya people of the Yucatán Peninsula in the 13th and 14th century CE – may well have been undone by drought.

That drought would have led to civil conflict, which would, in turn, have brought about political collapse, according to the researchers.

People would then have retreated to smaller and safer settlements.

As well as giving us a useful insight into the history of this ancient people, the new study is a warning as well: about how shifts in climate can quickly put pressures on even the most well-established and prosperous civilizations. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/it-may...-that-led-to-the-collapse-of-the-maya-capital

PUBLISHED RESEARCH REPORT: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-31522-x
Based on recent discoveries, a Mexican archaeologist has floated a hypothesis that the rubber balls used in the Mayans' culturally significant "ballgame" contained the ashes of cremated rulers. This hypothesis has received mixed responses, but everyone agrees further research is required.
Ancient Maya Used Ashes of Rulers to Make Rubber Balls, Some Researchers Suggest

Maya people cremated their rulers and used the ashes to help make rubber balls that were used in ballgames, an archaeologist has claimed.

The researcher and his team believe they've found evidence of this practice while excavating the Maya city of Toniná, in southern Mexico. ...

The theory about the rubber balls was put forward by Juan Yadeun Angulo, an archaeologist at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

In 2020, Angulo's team discovered a 1,300-year-old crypt in Toniná beneath a pyramid called the Temple of the Sun.

The crypt held the remains of about 400 vessels that contained organic materials, including ash, charcoal, and natural rubber, the team said in a Spanish language statement.

Now, having analyzed the jars and site, the team believes that the ash is the cremated remains of rulers. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/ancien...to-make-rubber-balls-some-researchers-suggest
Newly published research findings indicate Mayan cities were notably polluted with mercury - to the extent some approached or exceeded modern safety thresholds.
Ancient Maya Cities Appear to Have Been Riddled With Mercury Pollution

... Long before conquistadors from far-off lands introduced the decay of war and disease, Maya cultures were dusting the soils of their urban centers with the heavy metal mercury.

The element's levels are so great in some areas, researchers are being advised to gear up to save their health.

"Mercury pollution in the environment is usually found in contemporary urban areas and industrial landscapes," says Duncan Cook, a geoarchaeologist at the Australian Catholic University and lead author of a review into the environmental legacy of the Maya.

Together with a team of researchers from the US and UK, Cook reviewed data sets collected from 10 Classic Period Maya dig sites and their surrounds that included environmental measurements of mercury levels.

A comparison of readings from across the region identified seven of the sites reported at least one area contaminated with a concentration of mercury that exceeds or equals modern benchmarks for toxic levels.

"Discovering mercury buried deep in soils and sediments in ancient Maya cities is difficult to explain, until we begin to consider the archaeology of the region which tells us that the Maya were using mercury for centuries." ...

Perhaps the most widely used form of mercury through the ages is the crystal mercury sulfide, a mineral also known as cinnabar. ...

For the blood-obsessed Maya, cinnabar was more than just a pretty hue of red.

"For the Maya, objects could contain ch'ulel, or soul-force, which resided in blood," says University of Cincinnati geoarchaeologist, Nicholas Dunning.

"Hence, the brilliant red pigment of cinnabar was an invaluable and sacred substance, but unbeknownst to them it was also deadly and its legacy persists in soils and sediments around ancient Maya sites."

... To find a good source of the mineral, you'd need to travel to the very edge of the Maya world.

Archaeological studies suggest, in fact, that cinnabar was being mined in Central America as far back as the second to first millennia BCE, a time when the Olmec culture flourished.

By the time the Maya were raising monuments to their gods across the land around the third century CE, cinnabar was already in common use, mostly in its powdered form to add color to decorative pieces, or even in burials.

On rare occasions, the purified metal itself has been uncovered, usually in association with ritual caches or elite funerals. Just how the Maya got their hands on this purified form of the element – whether through trade or their own methods of chemistry – is still something of a mystery. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/ancient-maya-cities-appear-to-have-been-riddled-with-mercury-pollution

PUBLISHED RESEARCH REPORT: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fenvs.2022.986119/full
Analysis of dental plaque among sacrificial victims uncovered blue cotton fibers embedded in their plaque. How and why such fibers could have been deposited there is a matter of speculation.
Maya sacrifice victims found with mysterious blue string in their teeth

More than 15 years after its discovery, Belize's Midnight Terror Cave is still leaving clues about more than 100 people who were sacrificed to the Maya rain god there more than a millennium ago.

Used for burial during the Maya Classic period (A.D. 250 to 925), the cave was named by locals who were called to rescue an injured looter in 2006. A three-year excavation project by California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) professors and students concluded that the more than 10,000 bones uncovered in the cave represented at least 118 people, many of whom had evidence of trauma inflicted on them around the time of death.

To dive deeper into the victims' final moments, the latest research didn't look at bones but instead at their mouths, investigating the calcified plaque from their teeth, known as dental calculus. The study, published Sept. 20 in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology (opens in new tab), describes curious blue fibers clinging to the teeth of at least two of the victims.

Study lead author Amy Chan, who's now an archaeologist working in cultural resource management, ... was interested in learning more about the dental health of the victims ...

Chan scraped the gunk off six teeth and sent it to study co-author Linda Scott Cummings ... Scott Cummings found that the samples contained primarily cotton fibers and that several of those were dyed bright blue.

"The discovery of blue cotton fibers in both samples was a surprise," Chan said, because "blue is important in Maya ritual."

A unique "Maya blue" pigment has been found at other sites in Mesoamerica, where it seems to have been used in ceremonies — particularly to paint the bodies of sacrificial victims, Chan and colleagues wrote in their research paper. These blue fibers were also found in an agave-based alcoholic beverage at burials at Teotihuacan, an archaeological site in what is now Mexico.

But Chan and her team offered another explanation for the fibers found on the teeth: Perhaps the victims had cotton cloths in their mouths, possibly from the use of gags leading up to their sacrifice. If victims were in custody for extended periods of time, their dental calculus could have incorporated the blue fibers. ...

Chan and her team agree that their study, while providing the first evidence of blue fibers in dental calculus of Maya individuals, has some limitations. First, the rate at which plaque forms and hardens varies based on the type of food eaten and a person's physiology, so the researchers cannot know for certain when the fibers were trapped. Additionally, very few teeth of Midnight Terror Cave victims had dental calculus to begin with, limiting the team's analysis. ...
FULL STORY: https://www.livescience.com/midnight-terror-cave-maya-sacrifice-victims

PUBLISHED RESEARCH REPORT: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/oa.3158
New excavations in Guatemala are revealing more about Tayasal - the Mayan city that didn't fall to the Spanish until 1697.
The Last Maya City Reveals a Trove of Buried Secrets And Spanish Bullets

Ceramics, human burial grounds, and bullets from Spanish guns are among artifacts that have been uncovered by archaeologists in Guatemala at the site of the last Maya city to resist European conquest, officials said Friday.

The new excavation project began last June in an effort to understand more about the Tayasal outpost where Maya inhabitants first settled in 900 BCE during their Preclassic period, the archeologist in charge of the dig told AFP.

Tayasal was the last Maya city to yield to the Spanish conquest in 1697, a century after Europeans entered the western highlands of what is now Guatemala ...

"More than 100 years passed in which the northern part of Guatemala was totally outside of Spanish rule, and this happened mainly because the jungle functioned as a natural border that made the arrival of the Spaniards to these places very difficult." ...
FULL STORY: https://www.sciencealert.com/the-la...a-trove-of-buried-secrets-and-spanish-bullets
Older than previously believed.

In the western, volcano-ringed highlands of Guatemala, Willy Barreno Minera keeps watch over the skies. As an ajq’ij, a daykeeper and spiritual guide, the stars and landscape help him keep track of the 260-day calendar that has ruled the life of his Maya K’iche’ community—an Indigenous group of about 1.6 million people—in Quetzaltenango for generations. Exactly how long people have been using this timekeeping system has posed a mystery. But a new study suggests the ancient calendar used by Maya and Olmec cultures may date back as early as 1100 B.C.E., centuries earlier than previous estimates.

“We know that it’s very old,” says David Stuart, an epigrapher at the University of Texas, Austin, who was not involved in the new study. “We just didn’t have any direct evidence for it.”

The 260-day calendar, or cholq’ij (order of the days), has only been found in the Maya region of Mexico and Central America. Timekeepers notated the passage of time using combinations of 13 numbers and 20 symbols, always in the same sequence. (For instance, 6 January 2023, would be “6 Rabbit” according to the cholq’ij.) We now know the calendar days correspond to alignments between the stars, architectural features of buildings, and natural landmarks. ...


Discovery of ‘superhighways’ suggests early Mayan civilization was more advanced than previously thought​

By Taylor Nicioli, CNN

With the thick vegetation of the northern Guatemala rainforests hiding its 2,000-year-old remnants, the full extent of the early Mayan way of life was once impossible to see. But laser technology has helped researchers discover a previously unknown 650-square-mile (1,683-square-kilometer) Maya site that offers startling new insights about ancient Mesoamericans and their civilization.

The researchers detected the vast site within the Mirador-Calakmul Karst Basin of northern Guatemala by using LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology, a laser mapping system that allows for structures to be detected below the thick tree canopies. The resulting map showed an area composed of 964 settlements broken down into 417 interconnected Mayan cities, towns and villages.

A 110-mile (177-kilometer) network of raised stone trails, or causeways, that linked the communities reveals that the early civilization was home to an even more complex society than previously thought, according to a recent analysis on the architecture groupings, published in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica.

“They’re the world’s first superhighway system that we have,” said lead study author Richard Hansen, a professor of anthropology at Idaho State University. “What’s amazing about (the causeways) is that they unite all these cities together like a spiderweb … which forms one of the earliest and first state societies in the Western Hemisphere.”

The causeways, which rise above the seasonal swamps and dense forest flora of the Maya Lowlands, formed “a web of implied social, political, and economic interactions” with further implications regarding “strategies of governance” due to how difficult they would have been to build, according to the study.

‘Superhighways’ and society​

The causeways were composed of a mixture of mud and quarry stone among several layers of limestone cement. Mayans likely made the elevated pathways with a process similar to the one they used to build their pyramids — by creating 10- to 15-foot (3- to 4.5-meter) stone boxes, then filling, stacking and leveling them off, according to Hansen. Several of these causeways were as wide as 131 feet (40 meters), nearly half the length of an American football field.

In Maya language, the word for causeway is “Sacebe” which translates to “white road.” On top of the raised roads was a thick layer of white plaster, which would have helped to increase visibility in the night as the plaster reflected moonlight, Hansen said.

“They didn’t have any pack animals in the Maya region … and we’re not thinking that they had wheeled vehicles on these causeways like Roman roads, like chariots or whatnot, but they were definitely built for people to interact, communicate and probably travel between sites,” said Marcello Canuto, anthropology professor and director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University.

Canuto, who was not involved in this study, was co-director on research that used the same LiDAR technology to reveal over 60,000 ancient Mayan structures in 2018.

The causeways “were efforts that involve a lot of people, a lot of labor and coordination,” Canuto said. “They are complex work projects that would have required coordination and some form of hierarchy.”

Advanced laser mapping technology​

LiDAR has been used to detect the remains of early Mayan civilizations since 2015, when two large-scale surveys were taken of the southern half of the Mirador-Calakmul Karst Basin. The technology allows for these discoveries to be made without harming the rainforests.

From an airplane flying overhead, light waves are pulsed down, and they bounce off objects below before returning to the sensor. Similar to sonar, which uses sound to locate structures, the LiDAR sensor tracks the amount of time each pulse takes to return and creates a three-dimensional map of the environment below.

“Imagine you’re in Poughkeepsie, New Jersey, and that’s all you can see, but you might catch this thing that we call the turnpike, right, but everything else is covered in jungle … you’ll have no idea that this turnpike might connect New York with Philadelphia,” Canuto said. “LiDAR is telling us everything that we found archaeologically over the last 100 years, here and there, is found everywhere … LIDAR lets us connect all the dots.”

Researchers are looking to gather more sampling and possibly locate more settlements through LiDAR technology this month to continue their research into the early Mayan civilization, according to Hansen.
Mayan Match Of The Day.

Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered an intricately carved stone they believe was used as a scoreboard for pelota, a ball game played by the Maya hundreds of years ago.

The circular stone was found at the Chichen Itza archaeological site and is thought to be at least 1,200 years old.At its centre are two players in elaborate headgear surrounded by hieroglyphic writing. Experts are now analysing the writing to decipher its possible meaning.

The 40kg-stone (88lb) was found by archaeologist Lizbeth Beatriz Mendicut Pérez in an architectonic compound known as Casa Colorada (Red House). Casa Colorada is the best preserved of the buildings surrounding the main plaza in the pre-Columbian city of Chichen Itza.

Experts believe the stone would have adorned an archway at the entrance to the compound during the late 800s or early 900s.
It was found face down half a metre underground, where it is thought to have fallen when the archway collapsed.

A view of the stone found at Chichen Itza
IMAGE SOURCE, INAH Image caption, Archaeologists say the stone will give them clues about the life of the Maya

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said the 40kg-stone (88lb) constituted a precious and unusual find.


"The general conceit over the last 100 years has been that the tropics were a bad place to have civilizations and that (the climate) is not conducive to sustaining complex societies," said Canuto, who has worked on Mayan archeology for more than 30 years. "There has always been this assumption that Mayan society was less populated and that there wasn't any infrastructure -- that they were small, independent city-states without much interaction.
"But we're finding that this just isn't true. This research shows that, not only were there lots of people, but also lots of ways that they modified the landscape to render it more productive. The defensive structures that we're finding (also suggest) that there were lots of people and lots of resources, which can create lots of competition."

I'd have thought that the tropics were ideal for ancient civilisations? Plenty of natural materials for building, lots of water, animals for eating and use of their skins etc, and a climate where vegetation and food grows rapidly?
Ancient Maya masons had a smart way to make plaster stronger

By historians’ reckoning, Copán’s golden age began in 427 CE, when a king named Yax Kʼukʼ Moʼ came to the valley from the northwest. His dynasty built one of the jewels of the Maya world, but abandoned it by the 10th century, leaving its courts and plazas to the mercy of the jungle. More than 1,000 years later, Copán’s buildings have kept remarkably well, despite baking in the tropical sun and humidity for so long.


The secret may lie in the plaster the Maya used to coat Copán’s walls and ceilings. New research suggests that sap from the bark of local trees, which Maya craftspeople mixed into their plaster, helped reinforce its structures. Whether by accident or by purpose, those Maya builders created a material not unlike mother-of-pearl, a natural element of mollusc shells.

Plaster makers followed a fairly straightforward recipe. Start with carbonate rock, such as limestone; bake it at over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit; mix in water with the resulting quicklime; then, set the concoction out to react with carbon dioxide from the air. The final product is what builders call lime plaster or lime mortar.

Maya lime plaster, experts agree, is one of the best. Rodríguez Navarro and his colleagues wanted to learn why. They found their first clue when they examined brick-sized plaster chunks from Copán’s walls and floors with X-rays and electron microscopes. Inside some pieces, they found traces of organic materials like carbohydrates.

The locals referred them to the chukum and jiote trees that grow in the surrounding forests—specifically, the sap that came from the trees’ bark.

The authors tested the sap’s reaction when mixed into the plaster. Not only did it toughen the material, it also made the plaster insoluble in water, which partly explains how Copán survived the local climate so well.


maximus otter
Found in dense vegetation this really was a lost city/

Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered the remains of an ancient Maya city deep in the jungle of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Experts found several pyramid-like structures measuring more than 15m (50ft) in height.

Pottery unearthed at the site appears to indicate it was inhabited between 600 and 800 AD, a period known as Late Classic.

Archaeologists have named the site Ocomtún (Mayan for stone column).

Stone column found at Ocomtun
IMAGE SOURCE,I VAN ṠPRAJC/INAH Image caption, The abundance of stone columns inspired the name researchers gave the city

The Maya are considered to have been one of the great civilisations of the Western Hemisphere, renowned for their pyramid temples and great stone buildings in an area which is now southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.

These latest remains were found in an ecological reserve in the state of Campeche, an area so dense with vegetation that it has been little explored.

Mexico's National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) said that its discovery was the result of field work aimed at documenting the archaeology of the Central Maya Lowlands, an area spanning 3,000 sq km of uninhabited jungle.

INAH said that airborne laser scanning carried out by the University of Houston had helped the research team spot "numerous concentrations of pre-Hispanic structures".

Images taken with an airborne laser scanner reveal the outlines of buildings in Campeche

Ivan Sprajc, who led the team, said they had been most surprised by the discovery of an elevated terrain surrounded by wetlands.

Having visited Mexico a few times and visited most of the Mayan ruins, all I can say is that what we see and know is only the tip of the iceberg, there are 1000's of acres of Mayan cities buried by the jungle, even around well known sites but there is not the resources and the as the Spanish found, not the treasure in terms of gold to make it interesting enough, which is a shame because there is so much more to learn
A ferry to the underworld.

A wooden canoe surrounded by human and animal skeletons near the ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá may have been used as part of a ritual.

In 2021, divers in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula discovered the boat and bones deep inside an underwater cave located 15 feet (4.6 meters) below the water's surface. In total, archaeologists found 38 skeletal remains, including a human metatarsal (foot bone) most likely from a woman, as well as bones from an armadillo, dog, turkey and eagle, according to a statement translated from Spanish.

The abundance of armadillo bones and the presence of the human foot have led researchers to conclude that the canoe may have been used by the Maya during a ritual and was intentionally placed inside the cave. This idea is based on the fact that armadillos are adept swimmers capable of holding their breath underwater, using their claws to propel themselves forward. The researchers think that the armadillo remains could be an "allusion to the entry of the [armored animal] into the underworld," according to the statement.

The Maya believed that caves and cenotes (sinkholes) were portals into the underworld and used armadillos as an "avatar" for God L, a jaguar deity with a cape resembling the armored pattern of an armadillo's shell.

"There are known images in Mayan ceramics in which [the armadillo] appears as a 'stool of the gods,' with characters that place their feet on it," Alexandra Biar, an archaeologist from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), said in the statement. "This would be directly linked to the archaeological evidence observed in the cenote," with the armadillo serving as a manifestation of the deity.

The canoe itself also provides archaeologists with further evidence that it was used as part of a sacred ceremony, as it contained a "very heavy" prow and stern that would have been difficult to navigate in swift currents and was most likely never seaworthy.

Maya power structures may have been a tad more complex than previously believed.

Pots with fancifully molded eyes, noses and mouths were one of the tip-offs.

Adrian Chase already had a growing sense that Maya society wasn’t quite what it’s been traditionally portrayed as: powerful rulers reigning while powerless commoners obeyed — or perhaps lived far enough from seats of power to operate largely on their own. Work by Chase and others had started to create a picture of a more politically complex society.

An archaeologist at the University of Chicago, Chase leads excavations of residential sites in and near the ancient Maya city center of Caracol in what’s now Belize. This city once sprawled across valleys, hillsides and hilltops. At its height, Caracol stretched 240 square kilometers, about the size of Milwaukee, before it was abandoned and swallowed by the forest.

Accumulating archaeological evidence had convinced Chase that shared social practices, such as placing pottery and other ritual items in special shrines, bonded groups of farm families into dozens of distinct neighborhoods within Caracol’s urban sprawl.

Consider those face-decorated pots. Varying shapes and spacings of molded eyes and other facial features added up to signature ceramic looks at different neighborhood-linked shrines. And those pots were just one element of a range of shrine offerings — including three-legged plates, curved jars with thin necks, and small medicine bottles and paint pots — that neighborhoods appeared to combine in distinctive ways.

And then there were the teeth. Individuals buried at some neighborhood shrines had either carved jade nuggets implanted in their teeth or their teeth filed in one of two styles. No such dental decorations appeared among the dead interred at other shrines. Various tooth alterations further defined neighborhood- specific shrine practices.

Pottery styles and tooth alterations together formed patterns specific to neighborhoods, Chase says. “There is a community aspect to these finds that reflects tight-knit neighborhoods.”

Caracol citizens, including those who lived well beyond downtown temples and pyramids, were not simple farmers growing crops in the service of a king, Chase suspects. Groups of as many as several hundred people had formed farming neighborhoods that built local ritual structures and followed distinctive ceremonial practices, apparently through their own collective efforts.

'Scientists in Guatemala have discovered "the first freeway system in the world," The Washington Post reports.

In an interview with the Post, researchers from a joint US-Guatemalan archaeological study published in the Cambridge University Press in December said they had uncovered 417 cities dating back roughly 3,000 years, interconnected by 110 miles of "superhighways."'

Changing of the guard: ritual burning marked adoption of new political regime.

New archaeological investigations in Guatemala reveal that ancient Maya peoples did not just passively watch their dynastic systems collapse at the end of the Classic period. They actively reworked their political systems to create new governments.

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of the ritual burning of royal human remains during the early ninth century AD at a pyramid in the Maya city of Ucanal, Guatemala, suggesting that the burning event was a public display of a political regime change.

Textual sources indicate that the beginning of the ninth century AD saw much political upheaval in the Maya Lowlands, but that the Maya kingdom of K'anwitznal grew in political power beginning with the reign of a new leader, Papmalil, who may have been a foreigner.

"Much epigraphic and archaeological research in the Maya area has focused on the collapse of Classic Maya polities at the end of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth century AD," states lead author of the research, Dr. Christina T. Halperin from the University of Montreal.

"However, key tipping points in history are rarely found directly in the archaeological record."

Nevertheless, Dr. Halperin and a team of researchers excavated a temple-pyramid at the K'anwitznal capital of Ucanal, discovering a deposit containing burnt human remains and ornaments. Their results are published in the journal Antiquity. ...