Lost Cities of the Maya: Exploring the Enigmatic Ruins in the Heart of the Jungle

Deep within the jungles of Central America lies the remnants of one of the most enigmatic civilization-the Maya. Maya cities were the centers of population of the pre-Columbian Maya Civilization of Mesoamerica. They served roles of administration, commerce, manufacturing, and religion which characterized ancient cities worldwide. Some Researchers spotted an ancient Maya city using LIDAR, in the jungles of the Balamaku ecological reserve on the Yucatan Peninsula. On further ground investigation, they found an array of complex structures which were unknown to researchers earlier. The array of buildings discovered leads to the idea that this city might have played a major role in the region.  

Maya cities were more dispersed than cities in other societies as a result of adaptation to a low land tropical environment which allowed food production and other activities. The Maya civilization reached its peak between 250 and 900 AD. These cities lacked the grid plans, they were not formally planned like the cities of highland Mexico, with the addition of temples and other buildings.

Maya kings ruled their kingdoms from palaces situated within the center of their cities. The cities were mostly located in places from where trade routes were easily accessible or that could supply essential products. The political relationship between classic Maya city-states has been linked to the relationships between city-states in classical Greece and Renaissance Italy.  Some cities were linked directly to each other by straight limestone causeways, known as Sacbeob, although the functions of these roads have not been determined. Some of the most famous lost cities of Maya are Tilak and Palenque.

Though it is over 1000-year-old, this city wasn’t known to the modern age. Hidden some 37 miles deep in the jungle, a research team led by Ivan Sprajc took information to discover the true location of the Maya city complete with complex buildings, plazas and even a ball game site.  The city has several pyramidal structures over 50 feet tall, the 123-acre site also includes three plazas with buildings and surrounded by patio groups.

Researchers named the newly discovered city Ocomtun, referring “stone column” in Yucatec Maya. The multiple cylindrical columns discovered are believed to be serving as entrances to upper rooms of the buildings. 

According to the team, the site underwent alterations around 1000 AD. By the 19th century, the existence of five former Maya cities came to be known in the Peten region of Guatemala. The number of cities known grew enormously over the 20th century, 24 cities had been discovered by 1938 in Peten alone.

As archaeologists continue to unravel the mysteries of the lost cities of Maya, one thing which remains clear is that ancient ruins hold the key to understanding the history of fascinating civilizations. Through their monumental architecture and intricate artwork, we gain invaluable insights into their achievements, aspirations and ultimately the enduring legacy of the Maya civilization.