Megacity of the Maya Warrior King

Megacity of the Maya Warrior King

Featuring Albert Lin.

To premiere on Friday 12 November.

The new documentary reveals a Maya Megacity.

New high-tech aerial surveys reveal what could be the biggest city in the entire Maya world, transforming what we know about a mysterious Maya dynasty known as the Snake Kings.

Johannesburg 2 November 2021: The ancient Maya city of Tikal in modern-day Guatemala was once one of the greatest cities on Earth. Wealthy, powerful and spectacular, with a population of a hundred thousand people or more, it dominated the Maya world for almost a thousand years. Despite Tikal being at the height of its power around one and a half thousand years ago, something apocalyptic happened. The city’s records, carved in stone throughout its history, suddenly stopped for more than a century. Now, in a new documentary, LOST CITIES: MEGACITY OF THE MAYA WARRIOR KING, premiering on Friday 12 November at 7 PM on National Geographic (ch 220), National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin embarks on a quest to find out what happened.

Glyphs on a worn stone altar found at another Maya city suggest that Tikal got defeated by the Kaanul dynasty, also known as the Snake Kings. But, could they have been powerful enough to take on the might of Tikal?

In the forests of Quintana Roo in southern Mexico lie the ruins of Dzibanché, just a few stone structures and temples protruding from the jungle canopy. While these remnants got dismissed as part of a relatively minor Maya city, cutting-edge surveys reveal a Maya megacity far larger than anyone imagined. At its heart, a temple thought to have stood over a hundred feet high. It’s a discovery that is rewriting what we know about the Maya. The discovery sheds new light on a mysterious and powerful dynasty called the Snake Kings and one of the most shocking and little-understood events in Maya history — the collapse of Tikal, considered the most dominant political and military power within the Classic Maya era until recently.

Archaeologists excavating tombs deep inside Dzibanché’s pyramids have discovered hieroglyphic texts that seem to confirm it was the original capital of the Snake Kings. The archaeologist in charge of the excavations, Sandra Balanzario Granados, describes the great discovery of the tomb of a ruler named Sky Witness, who, according to ancient texts, was responsible for that historic victory over Tikal. But, at first glance, Dzibanché doesn’t seem big enough to be the capital of a Tikal-beating dynasty.

A recent study using aerial LiDAR technology (a form of laser-based airborne survey) by archaeologists from Mexico’s Institute of National Anthropology and History and the US yields startling results at Dzibanché. Archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer Francisco Estrada-Belli examined these results, revealing that hidden beneath the forest is a vast city connected by causeways with plazas and palaces, sprawling suburbs and secondary centres stretching up to 10 miles away. Among them is a ceremonial centre with a vast pyramid formally topped with carvings of gods, kings and snakes, and that may have been the largest temple in the entire Maya world.

Lost Cities – Megacity of the Maya Warrior King, premieres on Friday 12 November at 7 PM, exclusively on National Geographic (ch 220).

Author: Jan Hendrik Harmse