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Ringing two abandoned pyramids are nine palaces "frozen in time" that may help unravel the mystery of the ancient Maya, reports an archaeological team.
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. The latest discoveries from the site may capture the moment of departure.
"The people just walked away and left everything in place," 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."
The ancient, or "classic" Maya were part of a Central American civilization best known for stepped pyramids, beautiful carvings and murals and the widespread abandonment of cities around 900 A.D. in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador. They headed for the northern Yucatan, where Spanish conquistadors met their descendants in the 1500s (6 million modern Maya still live in Central America today).