Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered the remains of a vast Mayan palace over 1,000 years old in an ancient city about 100 miles west of the tourist hotspot of Cancún.
The building in Kulubá is 55 metres long, 15 metres wide and six metres high, and appears to have been made up of six rooms, said Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.
It is part of a larger complex that also includes two residential rooms, an altar and a large round oven. Archaeologists have also uncovered remains from a burial site, and hope forensic analysis of the bones could provide more clues about Kulubá’s Mayan inhabitants.
The palace was in use during two overlapping eras of Mayan civilisation, in the late classical period between AD600 and AD900, and the terminal classical between AD850 and AD1050, said Alfredo Barrera Rubio, one of the lead archaeologists at the site.
“We know very little about the architectural characteristics of this region, the north-east of Yucatán. So one of our main objectives, as well as the protection and restoration of cultural heritage, is the study of the architecture of Kulubá,” he said in a video made on the site.
“This is just the start of the work. We are only just uncovering one of the largest structures on the site.” He hopes that as the work continues, it will become a natural attraction for visitors to the region.
The Mayans built one of the greatest civilisations of the western hemisphere, which flourished across central America including what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.
Their cities featured pyramid temples and huge stone buildings, and they used agriculture and metalwork, developed sophisticated irrigation systems and invented a hieroglyphic writing system.
But Mayan society suffered a precipitous and mysterious decline between AD800 and AD1000. Scientists have suggested war, climate, disease and politics as possible causes, although cities including Chichén Itzá – which the archaeological dig suggests controlled Kulubá – flourished longer.
The conservation team are considering bringing back some of the forest cover – which was cleared during earlier excavation work at older parts of the site – to protect some of the more delicate buildings from the elements.
“One option which the site offers is using vegetation for conservation,” said Natalia H Tangarife, part of the conservation team.
“This would mean reforesting specific sites so that trees can provide protection from direct sunlight, wind and other elements, for those structures which still have some of the original paint colours.”
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