New Maya Temple Found, Covered With Giant Faces. Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar.
Long since lost to the Guatemalan jungle, the temple is finally showing its faces to archaeologists, and revealing new clues about the rivalrous kingdoms of the Maya.
Unlike the relatively centralized Aztec and Inca empires, the Maya civilization—which spanned much of what are now Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico‘s Yucatán region (Maya map)—was a loose aggregation of city-states. (Read about the rise and fall of the Maya in National Geographic magazine.)
“This has been a growing awareness to us since the 1990s, when it became clear that a few kingdoms were more important than others,” said Brown University archaeologist Stephen Houston, who announced the discovery of the new temple Thursday.
El Zotz, in what’s now Guatemala, was one of the smaller kingdoms, but one apparently bent on making a big impression.
By 2010 archaeologists working on a hilltop near the ancient city center had discovered 45-foot-tall (13-meter-tall) Diablo Pyramid. Atop it they found a royal palace and a tomb, believed to hold the city’s first ruler, who lived around A.D. 350 to 400.
Read more and watch the video on National Geographic page.