Looters are raiding treasures in the Mayan city of X’baatún

Spanish researchers helping to revive archaeological zone, in which a ball court and pyramid have been discovered

A hidden jungle pyramid and ball court were found in the Mayan city of X'baatún. Photo: INAH

A Spanish archeologist is calling on authorities to protect a ancient Mayan city from looters, who have been making off with pre-Hispanic treasures.

Carmen Vareal Torrecilla said Yucatan needs to better protect Parque Oxhuatz.

The dense jungle that covers the park’s X’baatún archaeological zone, jealously guards a 37-meter-high pyramid, a ball court and several other structures discovered by scientists from Mexico and Spain.

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The walled city was discovered in the 1990s in almost virgin forest in Tekal de Venegas, a municipality roughly 80 km / 50 miles east of Merida. But only recently have researchers learned, and announced, the scope of the discovery.

“In the most recent excavations we discovered new structures and remains of ceramics belonging to the period from 500 to 300 BC until that of 900 to 1000 AD,” Spanish archeologist Carmen Varela Torrecilla, of the European University of the Atlantic, told a reporter.

The researcher, who works in coordination with Juan García Targa, of the University of Barcelona, ​​and architect Alfonso Muñoz Cosme, of the Polytechnic University of Madrid, and with staff of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), reports that they will continue their work there until the site is returned to its splendor.

In the first part of the project, she was accompanied by the archaeologist Geiser Gerardo Martín Medina, associate researcher of the INAH Yucatan and Tabasco.

“Dr. García Targa will come to Yucatan next October to continue with the first and second phase of the work plan. New excavations will be done and next January we will all focus on X’baatun,” said Varela.

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“We want the inhabitants of Tekal de Venegas to feel pride through ecotourism, ” Varela said.

The value of the project lies, according to the expert, in the joint work between the governments of Mexico and Spain. “We believe in alliances to boost the cultural development of this country,” she said.

“Yucatan has a heritage that shines for its Mayan culture,” she added.

In 2020, the Spanish government will invest resources to create a working map of the X’baatún archaeological zone. “With a drone, photographs will be taken through lasers throughout the surface to obtain a topographic map of all structures,” said the archaeologist.

Varela also called on the Yucatan authorities to intervene on the site “because they are looting the pre-Hispanic treasure found in the Oxhuatz park.”

“In addition, there is a major problem: cows from a nearby ranch go to drink water in the cenote and destroy the structures. In another area you can see the illegal clearing in one of the pre-Hispanic platforms and in another body of water they contaminate it with their feces,” she explained.

To avoid these problems, support will be requested from the Ministry of Tourism to obtain a management plan.

“That will result in work for the inhabitants of Dzoncauich and Tekal de Venegas,” towns near the archaeological zone, she said.

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