Ancient Mayan city, Ocomtun, found hidden in Calakmul jungle

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A staircase is among the remains of a major Mayan city found buried in the thick jungle of Campeche. Photo: Ivan Ṡprajc via INAH

The remains of an ancient Mayan city with large pyramid-like buildings, a ball court, stone columns, three plazas with “imposing buildings,” and other structures arranged in almost-concentric circles have been encountered in Campeche’s jungle interior, INAH said.

Uncovered with airborne laser scanning, LiDAR, the city of more than 123 acres was evidently once an important center of activity more than 1,000 years ago. 

The remains of a major Mayan city were found buried in the thick jungle of Campeche. Photo: Ivan Ṡprajc via INAH

From May to mid-June, a team focused on the northwestern part of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Balamkú, where aerial images had hinted at the probability of archaeological vestiges buried in the thick jungle.

Earlier: With new technology, archaeologists uncover the shocking size of Calakmul 

Researchers focused on a largely unexplored stretch of land larger than Luxembourg. 

The remains of a major Mayan city were found buried in the thick jungle of Campeche. Photo: INAH

Ocomtun has a core area located on high ground surrounded by extensive wetlands that include several pyramid-like structures up to 15 meters high, lead archaeologist Ivan Ṡprajc said.

Ṡprajc said his team had also found central altars in an area closer to the La Rigueña River, which may have been designed for community rituals.

Judging from materials extracted from buildings, Ocomtun declined around 800 to 1000 CE, Ṡprajc speculated.

Lead archaeologist Ivan Ṡprajc. Photo: INAH

The discovery results from the first field season of the INAH-approved project “Expanding the archaeological panorama of the Mayan Central Lowlands,” coordinated by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

The remains of a shrine at the ancient Mayan city Ocomtun. Photo: INAH

The initiative seeks to expand the knowledge of a vast area practically unknown to archaeology. It occupies the central part of the state of Campeche, bordering to the south with the Escárcega-Chetumal highway, to the east with the northern sector of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and to the north with the Chenes region. That adds up to 3,000 square kilometers of uninhabited jungle.

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