Ancient Cities Found in Mexican Jungle: Photos

One of the cities featured an extraordinary facade with an entrance representing the open jaws of an earth monster.

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Archaeologists have discovered two ancient Maya cities in the tropical forest of central Yucatan. The team unearthed stone monuments, inscriptions, temple pyramids and the remains of massive structures.

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One of the cities featured an extraordinary facade with an entrance representing the open jaws of an earth monster. "It represents a Maya earth deity related with fertility. These doorways symbolize the entrance to a cave and, in general, to the watery underworld, place of mythological origin of maize and abode of ancestors," expedition leader Ivan Sprajc, of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU), told Discovery News.

Sprajc and his team also found the remains of a temple pyramid almost 65 feet high, a ball court and several massive palace-like buildings arranged around four major plazas.

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The archaeologists also found 10 stelae (tall sculpted stone shafts) and three altars (low circular stones) which featured well-preserved reliefs and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

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An inscription on one of these stelae reveals the stone was engraved on Nov. 29, 711 A.D. by a "lord of 4 k'atuns (20-year periods)." Unfortunately, the remaining text, which included the name of the ruler and possibly of his wife, is heavily eroded.

Similarly imposing was the other city unearthed by Sprajc. The previously unknown city was named Tamchen, which means "deep well" in Yucatec Maya.

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More than 30 chultuns were found at the site. These are bottle-shaped underground chambers, largely intended for collecting rainwater. "Several chultuns were unusually deep, going down as far as 13 meters (43 feet)," Sprajc said.

Like in Laguinita, plazas were surrounded by large buildings. These include the remains of an acropolis supporting a courtyard with three temples on its sides, and a pyramid temple with a well preserved sanctuary on top and a stela (pictured above). An altar at its base was also unearthed.

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