The online-version of an article by SoA Professors Takeshi Inomata and Daniela Triadan was published this Wednesday on the web site of the journal Nature. The print version will follow soon. Through their lidar survey and excavations in Tabasco, Mexico, they discovered the oldest ceremonial structure in the Maya area at the site of Aguada Fénix, which turned out to be the largest in the entire prehispanic history of the Maya area. The site was not known before their research because it is so large horizontally, it looks like a part of the natural landscape if you walk on it. Lidar revealed its perfect rectangular shape. UANews has covered the article’s publication. The finding is widely covered by international media, including CNN, National Geographic, NPR, and Reuters. The abstract is printed below; you can read the article here.
Update, 8/14/2020: A new video from the National Science Foundation brings Professors Inomata and Triadan to a wider audience.
Update, 7/31/2020: Drs. Inomata and Triadan are the subject of a new Faculty Spotlight Video from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
Update, 6/11/2020: A segment about the discovery aired on KOLD 13 on June 10, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. Watch it here.
The find was also covered by national news program ABC World News Tonight; a subscription is required to see the online video.
Update, 6/8/2020: Drs. Inomata and Triadan were featured on the evening news on local station KVOA. Watch the segment here.
Abstract: Archaeologists have traditionally thought that the development of Maya civilization was gradual, assuming that small villages began to emerge during the Middle Preclassic period (1000–350 bc; dates are calibrated throughout) along with the use of ceramics and the adoption of sedentism1. Recent finds of early ceremonial complexes are beginning to challenge this model. Here we describe an airborne lidar survey and excavations of the previously unknown site of Aguada Fénix (Tabasco, Mexico) with an artificial plateau, which measures 1,400 m in length and 10 to 15 m in height and has 9 causeways radiating out from it. We dated this construction to between 1000 and 800 bc using a Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. To our knowledge, this is the oldest monumental construction ever found in the Maya area and the largest in the entire pre-Hispanic history of the region. Although the site exhibits some similarities to the earlier Olmec centre of San Lorenzo, the community of Aguada Fénix probably did not have marked social inequality comparable to that of San Lorenzo. Aguada Fénix and other ceremonial complexes of the same period suggest the importance of communal work in the initial development of Maya civilization.
Anthro News publication date: 6/5/2020