Human burial sites and bullets from Spanish weapons discovered at site of last Mayan stronghold in Guatemala

Ceramics, human burials and bullets from Spanish weapons are among the artifacts discovered by archaeologists in Guatemala at the site of the last Mayan city to resist European conquest, officials said Friday.

The new excavation project began last June in an effort to understand more about the Tayasal outpost where the Mayans first settled in 900 BC. during their pre-classical period, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation told AFP.

Tayasal was the last Mayan city to succumb to Spanish conquest in 1697, a century after Europeans entered the western highlands of present-day Guatemala, Swarlin Cordova said.

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Aerial view of the archaeological site of Tayasal, in the municipality of Flores, department of Peten, 500 km north of Guatemala City, on October 28, 2022.

CARLOS ALONZO/AFP via Getty Images


“More than 100 years passed during which the northern part of Guatemala was completely outside of Spanish rule, and this was mainly because the jungle acted as a natural border that made the arrival of the Spanish in these parts very difficult,” Cordova said.

In 1525, Tayasal was also part of the route used by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes on his journey to present-day Honduras.

Most of the buildings at the Tayasal site are buried under earth and vegetation within an area of ​​seven square kilometers near Lake Peten Itza.

Among the partially exposed structures at the site is a 30-meter-high citadel that research suggests served as the residence of the ruling elite.

Also visible is a water well used since pre-Hispanic times.

One of the project’s goals is to improve the site so tourists can better “appreciate” the archaeological value of the vast Mayan area, said Jenny Barrios of Guatemala’s Ministry of Culture and Sports.

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Image of pieces found at the Tayasal archaeological site, in Flores municipality, Peten department, 500 km north of Guatemala City, on October 28, 2022.

CARLOS ALONZO/AFP via Getty Images


The Mayan civilization reached its peak between 250 and 900 AD. in present-day southern Mexico and Guatemala, as well as parts of Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras.

In 2018, archaeologists used high-tech mapping technology to essentially uncover a vast network of Mayan ruins hidden for centuries in the dense jungles of Guatemala, CBS News’ David Begnaud said. mentionted.

The uncovered landscape included previously unknown cities and more than 60,000 interconnected structures, including houses, farms, highways, and even pyramids. Scientists and archaeologists discovered the ancient ruins by firing lasers from an airplane to penetrate the dense jungle canopy.

Previous estimates estimated that only 1 or 2 million people lived in the Maya lowlands. But researchers now believe as many as 20 million people may have lived there.

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