Recreación del monumento maya hallado en el yacimiento de Aguada Fenix, en el estado de Tabasco (sur de México). Photo: Reuters.
Recreation of the Mayan monument found at the Aguada Fenix site in the state of Tabasco (southern Mexico). Photo: Reuters.

The largest and oldest Mayan monument in the world is discovered

This finding could prove that Mayan society was not as hierarchical as believed, but that community work existed.


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A team of archaeologists has found the largest and oldest monumental complex built by the Mayan civilization in the state of Tabasco, Mexico. The structure, named Aguada Fenix, reveals that community work was much more developed among the Mayans than previously thought, and it looks like a large platform between 10 and 15 meters high, and almost a kilometer and a half long, from which a total of nine roadways depart in different directions. According to experts, the remains could be a little less than 3,000 years old. 

Until now, the oldest known Mayan site (Ceibal, Guatemala) had been dated around 950 BC. The ceremonial center of Aguada Fenix could be fifty years older. To reach these conclusions, archaeologists used laser and radiocarbon dating systems. The site, which is completely flat, is inhabited today, but through an innovative system it has been possible to study the underground structure in great detail.

The discovery will substantially modify the history of Central America, because it seems that in the light of this discovery the Mayan society would not seem, in its origin, as unequal as it was later in more advanced stages.

According to the scientists, the fact that structures like this were built before what was being estimated could mean that there were transversal links between the Mayas that were unthinkable in a strongly hierarchical society, for the simple reason that it would not have been possible to build something so large without solidly established community work.

Experts believe that spontaneous initiative could have contributed to building even more than a government organization with clear leadership. This may mean that the social links were as or more important than the central organization. In this case, coordinated teams would have been more effective than a vertical social structure. 

Takeshi Inomata of the University of Arizona leads this research on ancient Mesocratic peoples. Enthused by these perspectives, the scientists will continue their research in the Tabasco region in the belief that they will be able to expand their knowledge of the origins of the Olmec and Maya peoples.

Only now have they been able to reveal to the world what they have discovered, a structure so enormous, although it was in 2017 that they began to detect parts of what had been forgotten for so long.


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