Archaeologists unravel the mysteries of the Mayan city Spirit of Man

(ORDO NEWS) — The ruins of an ancient Mayan city discovered by INAH archaeologists in 2018 in Mexico’s central Yucatan Peninsula have now been largely restored.

A city called Xiol (“Spirit of Man” in the Mayan language) was built between 600 and 900 AD, and palaces, houses, tombs and workshops have been discovered and restored from the site. This place was accidentally stumbled upon during construction work in an industrial park near Merida.

The Mayan city of Xiol also boasts a main plaza with a pyramid and a zocalo (central plaza) with a palatial-style structure with two entrances separated by a monolithic column. The large area was probably used for ceremonial purposes.

In addition, there is a beautiful cenot 5 meters (16 feet) deep, which will be fully explored in the coming weeks. The cenote is a natural reservoir formed as a result of the collapse of the limestone surface. Archaeologists have also discovered 76 plinths – the plinth is the lowest support of an architectural column.

Archaeologists unravel the mysteries of the Mayan city Spirit of Man 2
The Mayan city of Xiol is believed to have had a population of about 4,000 people

José Arturo Chab Cardenas, spokesman for INAH, said the site was intended to be part of an industrial park, but the developer ceded the land to INAH and even funded excavations and restoration work.

“This site shows us that private infrastructure projects are not an obstacle… to the preservation of our cultural heritage. The discovery of this Mayan city is important due to its monumental architecture…”, he said. “This archaeological site will be a bonus for this industrial project.”

The settlement probably housed about 4,000 people from different social strata – priests, scribes and ordinary people.

“[It was] a big city, people of different social classes lived here, for example, priests [and] scribes who lived in these large palaces, as well as ordinary people who lived in small buildings made of stone,” said Carlos Peraza Lope, coordinator of archaeological excavations in Xiol.

Peraza explained that the priests and scribes lived in large palaces. The exalted social position of scribes can be observed in ancient and pre-medieval societies throughout the world, since scribes, after the priests, were the interpreters of religious texts.

Eventually, they were given some of the most important roles in the royal court as well, thanks to their access to the earliest forms of writing written in the language of the elite.

In Mayan society, scribes were considered to be those who could perform the dual function of writing and drawing.

The artistic depiction of the work of rulers, their way of governing and the activities of the ruler in general was part of their work. The scribes studied the calendar system, social rituals, various arts, mathematics, scientific information, history, as well as religious rituals and myths.

Puuc Architectural Style and Other Finds in a Mayan City

The common people, on the other hand, lived in smaller, more modest dwellings that were made of perishable stone material. Some of the structures were built in the Puuc architectural style, according to La Prensa Latina.

This architectural style originated at the end of the Late Classic period, but reached its greatest prosperity during the Terminal Classic period (800-900 AD). One of the key elements of Puuc architecture is the use of a concrete core. The best examples of this style can be found in Uxmal, Sail, Hlapak, Chichen Itza and other places.

Archaeologists unravel the mysteries of the Mayan city Spirit of Man 3
Building in Xiol, a Mayan city near Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

Carlos Peraza also noted that this architectural style is commonly found in the south of the Yucatán, in contrast to Xiol, which is in the north. We have found at least five buildings of this kind [in Xiol],” Peraza told the newspaper Milenio during a press tour of the site on Thursday.

Interestingly, he noted that Xiol, which was built around the same time, like Uxmal and Chichen Itza, has “many decorative elements in common”.

Tools used in the construction of the city were found, obsidian and flint, as well as ceramic pots and ancient graves.

A total of 15 graves were found, mostly adult men and women, although there are also a few children’s graves. Vessel offerings, earrings, necklaces and other items used in people’s daily lives were also found here.

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Pottery discovered in the ancient Mayan city of Xiol

So far, only 12 structures have been reconstructed – archaeologists are firmly convinced that more structures will appear, including a ball court typical of pre-colonial Mexican cities. Archaeologists have also found scattered remains of marine life, suggesting that the people of Xiol ate fish to supplement their agricultural-based diet.

“Over time, urban development (in the area) has grown and many archaeological remains have been destroyed … but even we archaeologists are surprised because we did not expect to find a place that is so well preserved,” concluded Peraza.


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