A recently detected ceremonial complex in Mexico is the oldest Mayan structure ever discovered. The details of his study were published in the journal Nature.
A huge Mayan platform, around 3,000 years old, has recently been identified in the state of Tabasco in Mexico. You will find this plateau at the Aguada Fénix site, about 1,400 km east of Mexico City. This structure, now considered to be the oldest ever discovered in the Maya region, was significantly larger than those built more than a millennium later during the classical Maya period (250-900 AD).
This remarkable discovery was made possible thanks to Lidar technology. Basically, this is a remote measurement technique based on the analysis of the properties of a beam of light returned to its emitter. Unlike radar which uses radio waves – or sonar which uses acoustic waves – Lidar uses light from the visible, infrared or even ultraviolet spectrum.
The applications of the technique are numerous. In the archaeological field, it essentially allows the discovery, from the sky, of new sites buried under the canopy. With this new technology, researchers can now collect as much data in a single plane trip as in a decade of field research.
This new investigation was carried out by researchers from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. In total, two surveys revealed 21 separate ceremonial centers on the Aguada Fénix site.
Among these structures is a main plateau measuring 1,413 meters long and 399 meters wide. Made of earth and clay, it rests about 10 to 15 meters above ground level.
In total, the researchers isolated nine pavements extending from this platform. Two structures were also built at the top of the main plateau, including a pyramidal structure (west side) measuring more than 15 meters high, and a lower secondary structure (east side), but still measuring 400 meters wide.
Finally another large construction, called “the western plateau”, was found about 1.5 km from the main plateau.
No residential building was found around the structure, so it is difficult to know how many people lived nearby. However, given the large size of the platform, archaeologists estimate that it would have taken approximately 5,000 people and more than six years of full-time work to build it.
The researchers also did not spot any marked indicators of social inequality, such as sculptures of high-ranking people, for example. It is therefore probable that the members of this civilization lived within a strongly egalitarian society, typical of the first Mayan societies.
Archaeologists also believe that these ancient Mayans met here for ceremonies. For example, it was notably possible, from the western pyramid structure, to witness the sunrise during the winter and summer solstices visible along the north and south corners of the eastern platform.
These ritual gatherings were undoubtedly also the occasion for the Mayans to make new contacts, and to organize feasts.