Archaeologists now believe that the discovery of the Mayan city of Holtun (which means Head of Stone) in Guatemala may provide them with a wealth of information about the daily lives of the ancient Maya. The site was discovered in the 1990’s and is located in northern Guatemala. The name “Head of Stone” comes from the massive stone masks located at the site.
Archaeologists first discovered the site after looters unearthed large, sculpted stone masks that were located on the side of one of the principal structures. Unfortunately, looters managed to destroy the major architecture at the site. The site was later surveyed by the IADAEH’s Department of Prehispanic and Colonial Monuments and investigations were continued at the site in 2010.
The site is made up of approximately 115 structures. They had previously been concealed by the thick jungle that had grown over them. The structures are grouped into six architectural groups. Some of the structures at the site include basal platforms, patios, mounds, pyramids, courtyards, causeways and several other structures. They are still largely obscured by the jungle vegetation that had grown over them. The site is also home to a number of stone houses or buildings that may have been used as burial chambers by Mayan kings. It is this use of stone homes as burial chambers that may have made it more difficult for researchers to find the royal remains.
Scientists have been able to determine that there would have been important religious ceremonies held at the city even though it was not as large or culturally advanced as other cities such as Tikal. Archaeologists have stated that if Tikal was the equivalent of a New York or a Los Angeles that it would have roughly compared to an Atlanta or a Denver.
Now scientists have been able to use different mapping techniques imaging technology in order to further excavate and explore the site. They have used three dimensional mapping in order to erase centuries of jungle growth as well as ground penetrating radar that has shown them a wealth of new information about what life would have been like when the site was being lived in.
It is believed that the site was in use between 600 BCE and 900 CE (the Late to Middle Preclassic period). At this time, it was estimated that approximately two thousand permanent residents would have made their home in the city. It was believed that at this time the Mayan peoples did not view their kings as being the center of the universe. Because of this view, it may have made more sense for kings to have been buried in their homes rather than in pyramids as they were in later Mayan civilizations.
It is also believed that the site would have accommodated a number of visitors who would have come to the site at times of great importance. Some of these events would have included the crowning of a king or the naming of a royal heir. At this time the site would have had to accommodate several thousand additional visitors.