Washington, September 21 (ANI): Archaeologists have uncovered two abandoned pyramids and nine palaces "frozen in time" at the ancient site of Kiuic (KIE-yuk), which may help unravel the mystery of the ancient Maya.
They have explored the pyramids and, most intriguingly, plantation palaces on the ridges ringing the centre.
Hidden in the hilly jungle, Kiuic was one of dozens of ancient Maya centres abandoned in the Puuc region of Mexico's Yucatan about 10 centuries ago.
According to reports, the latest discoveries from the site may shed light on the the moment of departure.
"The people just walked away and left everything in place. Until now, we had little evidence from the actual moment of abandonment, it's a frozen moment in time," USA Today quoted archaeologist George Bey of Millsaps College in Jackson Miss., co-director of the Labna-Kiuic Regional Archaeological Project, as saying.
Bey and Tomas Gallareta, of Mexico's National Institute of Archaeology and History, have previously found that the Maya had inhabited the Puuc region since 500 B.C.
As to why they headed for the coast with their brethren is just part of the mystery of the Maya collapse, say the archaeologists.
They say that new clues may come from Kiuic.
The pyramids and palaces they have explored look like latter-day additions to Kiuic, built in the 9th century, just as Maya centres farther south were being abandoned.
"The influx of wealth (at Kiuic) may spring from immigration," Bey says, as Maya headed north.
One pyramid was built atop what was originally a palace, allowing the rulers of Kiuic to simultaneously celebrate their forebears and move to fancier digs in the hills.
While exploring the hilltop palaces, five vaulted homes to the south of the hilltop plaza and four to the north, the archaeologists found tools, stone knives and axes, corn-grinder stones called metates (muh-TAH-taze) and pots still sitting in place.
"It was completely unexpected. It looks like they just turned the metates on their sides and left things waiting for them to come back," Bey says.
"Their finds look very interesting and promising. If it indeed represents rapid abandonment, it provides important implications about the social circumstance at that time and promises detailed data on the way people lived," says archaeologist Takeshi Inomata of the University of Arizona, who is not part of the project.
"I should add that the identification of rapid abandonment is not easy. There are other types of deposits - particularly ritual deposits - that result in very similar kinds of artifact assemblages," Inomata cautions, by email.
Bey and colleagues presented some of their findings earlier this year at the Society for American Archaeology meeting in Atlanta.
They hope to publish its results and dig further at Kiuic to prove their finding of rapid abandonment there.
"I think you could compare it to Pompeii, where people locked their doors and fled, taking some things but leaving others," Bey says. (ANI)