The ruins of an ancient Mayan city once populated with palaces, pyramids, and plazas was discovered on an industrial park construction site near Mérida, Mexico.
“We believe that possibly more than 4,000 people lived here,” said Carlos Peraza Lope, one of the archaeologists who led the excavation, in a Global News segment. “It was a large city where people from different social classes lived. There were priests, scribes who lived in the big palaces. Common people lived in smaller buildings made from perishable masonry materials.”
Dating from between 600 CE–900 CE, Xiol is comprised of 12 structures, including a main ceremonial center with a cenote, or a deep-water well. Two additional structures surrounding the ceremonial center likely served as elite residences.
According to INAH archaeologists who unearthed the site, called Xiol (meaning “spirit of man” in the Yucatec-Maya language), the find is a rare one, since it exhibits an architectural style that is common in the southern Yucatán peninsula, but rare in the north.
That style, known as Puuc, refers to ornate buildings that make use of smooth limestone surfaces and concrete cores. Chichen Itza is among the Mayan sites done in the style.
An additional 76 structures have been identified at Xiol, though they remain hidden under vegetation and have not yet been properly excavated. Large quantities of tools, pottery, and carved stone figures have also been found.
“We even have some tools the ancient Mayas used to build their buildings, to smooth and coat the carved stones with stucco and often with paint as well, either blue or red,” Peraza Lope said.
Additionally, researchers discovered 15 adult and children burials. These people were likely linked to the region’s nobility, and they were interred with obsidian and flint tools, ceremonial offerings, and other objects.
Remains of marine life were also discovered nearby, indicating that they city’s inhabitants ate fish caught along the local coast.
While the industrial park is still planned to be built, experts will also work to preserve the archaeological remains. Xiol is slated to open to the public before the end of this year.