- A new National Geographic documentary reveals a Maya Megacity.
- New high-tech aerial surveys reveal what could be the biggest city in the entire Maya world.
- This discovery could change everything we know about the mysterious Maya Dynasty known as the Snake Kings.
The ancient Maya city of Tikal in modern-day Guatemala was once one of the greatest cities on Earth.
Wealthy, powerful and spectacular, with a population of a hundred thousand people or more, it dominated the Maya world for almost a thousand years.
But around one and a half thousand years ago, at the very height of its powers, something apocalyptic happened.
The city’s records, carved in stone throughout its history, suddenly stopped for more than a century.
Now, in a new documentary, Lost Cities: Megacity of the Maya Warrior King, premiering on Friday, 12 November at 19:00 (CAT) on National Geographic (DStv 181, Starsat 220) National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin embarks on a quest to find out what happened.
Glyphs on a worn stone altar found at another Maya city suggest Tikal was defeated by the Kaanul dynasty, also known as the Snake Kings. But, could they really have been powerful enough to take on the might of Tikal?
In the forests of Quintana Roo in southern Mexico lie the ruins of Dzibanché, just a few stone structures and temples protruding from the jungle canopy.
While the vestiges were long dismissed as part of a relatively minor Maya city, cutting-edge surveys reveal a Maya megacity, far bigger than anyone imagined.
At its heart, a temple thought to have stood over a hundred feet high. It’s a discovery that is rewriting what we know about the Maya, shedding new light on a mysterious and powerful dynasty called the Snake Kings and one of the most shocking and little-understood events in Maya history — the collapse of the city of Tikal, until now considered the greatest political and military power in the classic Maya era.
ALSO READ: From FHM model to meth smuggler: Simone Starr gets candid about her dark past and bright future
Archaeologists excavating tombs deep inside Dzibanché’s pyramids have discovered hieroglyphic texts that seem to confirm it was the original capital of the Snake Kings. The archaeologist in charge of the excavations, Sandra Balanzario Granados, describes the important discovery of the tomb of a ruler named Sky Witness, who, according to ancient texts, was responsible for that historic victory over Tikal. But, at first glance, Dzibanché doesn’t seem big enough to be the capital of a Tikal-beating dynasty.
A recent study using aerial LiDAR technology (a form of laser-based airborne survey) by archaeologists from Mexico’s Institute of National Anthropology and History and the U.S., is yielding startling results at Dzibanché. Archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer Francisco Estrada-Belli examines the results, revealing that hidden beneath the forest is a vast city connected by causeways with plazas and palaces, sprawling suburbs and secondary centers stretching up to 10 miles away. Among them is a ceremonial center with a vast pyramid that would have been topped with carvings of gods, kings and snakes, and that may have been the largest temple in the entire Maya world.