The Mayans from central America and Mexico were best known for best known for stepped pyramids, beautiful carvings and murals and the widespread abandonment of cities around 900 A.D.
Hidden in the hilly jungle, the ancient site of Kiuic (KIE-yuk) was one of dozens of ancient Maya centers abandoned in the Puuc region of Mexico's Yucatan about 10 centuries ago. It looks like they just packed up and walked away, says archaeologist George Bey of Millsaps College in Jackson Miss., co-director of the Labna-Kiuic Regional Archaeological Project. "Until now, we had little evidence from the actual moment of abandonment, it's a frozen moment in time."
New clues may come from Kiuic, where the archaeologists explored two pyramids and, most intriguingly, plantation palaces on the ridges ringing the center. Of particular interst: a hilltop complex nicknamed "Stairway to Heaven" by Gallareta (that's "Escalera al Cieloa" for Spanish-speaking Led Zeppelin fans) because of a long staircase leading from Kiuic to a central plaza nearly a mile away.
Image by Michael R. Swigart via Flickr
Both the pyramids and the palaces look like latter-day additions to Kiuic, built in the 9th century, just as Maya centers 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.