In the northern part of the Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul, Campeche, archaeologists discovered what appear to be two ancient Mayan cities: Lagunita, which remained covered by lush vegetation for decades; and another unregistered urban center called Tamchén (“Deep Well”), named after the large number of “chultunes” (wells, or water holes) found in the area, some up to 13 meters deep.
These two inaccessible sites, hidden in the jungle, were found by an expedition led by Ivan Sprajc, of the Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC Sazu).
According to information provided by the Academy, the most striking feature of Lagunita is a zoomorphic monument depicting the gaping maw of a Mayan earth monster, which was associated with the underworld, water and fertility. There are also several monumental buildings, a Maya ball game court and a pyramid temple nearly 20 meters high, along with 10 trails that connect the various buildings and the three altars.
Pyramidal temple with a stela and an altar at the base (Photo: cnn.mexico.com)
In Tamchén archaeologists found a concentration of chultunes throughout the civic and ceremonial center, some of which were reported as unusually deep. A pyramidal temple with a stela and an altar at the base supports substantial portions of the upper sanctuary.
The expedition, which was supported by the National Institute of Anthropology and History, was also supported by funding from the following persons and organizations: KJJ Charitable Foundation, Ken and Julie Jones (USA); Villas Firms (Austria); Ars Longa and Adria Kombi (Slovenia); Hotel Rio Bec Dreams (Mexico), and Martin and Aleš Obreza Hobel.
Working the ruins are Atasta archaeologists Octavio Esparza Flores Esquivel Olguin, architect Arianna Campiani, PhD students of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Aleš Marsetic, surveyor of ZRC Sazu.
Stela found in Tamchen (Photo: cnn.mexico.com)
Front of stela found in Lagunitas (Photo: cnn.mexico.com)
The facade of Lagunita is in good condition and can be compared with those at Chicanná, Hormiguero, and Hochob, as well as other archaeological sites in Campeche. Some of the monuments are well preserved and show hieroglyphic inscriptions. According to the preliminary reading of specialist Octavio Esparza, inscriptions on Lagunita’s Stela number 2 notes that the monument was erected in 711 AD by the ruler known as “Lord Katunes 4th”.
Its regional significance is determined by its architectural features and sculpted monuments, as well as by the large concentration of dwellings in the area.
Stela number 4, Lagunitas Archaeological Site (Photo: cnn.mexico.com)
According to the data gathered by the researchers, Tamchén and Lagunita had their heyday in the Late and Terminal Classic period (600-1000 AD).
Facade with zoomorphic monument depicting the gaping maw of a Mayan earth monster (Photo: cnn.mexico.com)
The site of Lagunita was visited in 1970 by American archaeologist Eric von Euw, but the results of his work were never published. In the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, sketches of zoomorphic sculpture, facade and some monuments were preserved, but the site location was unknown.
Atasta Archaeologists examined aerial photographs of the area and were able to identify Lagunita, comparing the monuments with Von Euw drawings that were provided by the Austrian researcher Karl Herbert Mayer.
Like Chactún, which was discovered last year, Lagunita and Tamchén have several “unusual” features that make them unique, and, in the opinion of researchers, this represents a challenge for future exploration in eastern Campeche.