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Mayan pyramid hides two more in Chichen Itza

November 17, 2016

The famous pyramid of Kukulkan was built over at least two preexisting structures, archeaologists claim, comparing the monument to a nesting doll. The newly discovered pyramid is centuries older than the visible one.

Mexiko Yucatan Kukulkan Pyramide in Chichen Itza
Image: picture-alliance/M. Mara

The smallest pyramid is about 10 meters (33 feet) tall and encapsulated within a 20-meter structure which is itself covered with the 30-meter Kukulkan pyramid at the Mexican Chichen Itza site, researchers said on Wednesday.

"It's like a Russian nesting doll. Under the large one we get another and another," said project's chief Rene Chavez Seguro.

The archeaologists used a non-invasive tri-dimensional scanning technique to discover and learn more about the structure. The oldest building appears to have a staircase and an altar on the top, which may have been filled in and preserved. Scientists estimate that it was built between the years 550 and 800 A.D.. Its construction "could tell us about the first-period inhabitants," archaeologist Denisse Lorenia Argote said.

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Scientists have long known about the intermediate layer, which dates back from the time between 800 and 1000 A.D. It was first discovered in the 1930s. The visible pyramid was finished between the years of 1050 and 1300.

More mystery under the surface

The oldest layer does not fully align with the second and third layer of construction. This may indicate that there are other buildings hidden at the same level.

According to US archeaologist Geoffrey Braswell, who did research at Chichen Itza but was not involved in the latest project, "the third Russian doll moving in may actually be one of a set of several small dolls rattling around inside the same shell.

"We just do not know," he told the AP news agency.

Last year, the experts discovered that the whole site was built atop an underground river, which was also considered holy by the ancient Maya.

dj/msh (AP, AFP)