According to a new study, the layout of an ancient Maya city is similar to that of a crocodile. Other scientists, however, are questioning the published analysis. The question is whether this is done on purpose or by happenstance.
Nixtun-Ch’ich’, dates back more over 2,500 years. It has an unusual grid layout that is unique in the Maya civilization, and it is also one of the earliest examples in the Americas.
The city was the largest and most powerful settlement in the region during the Middle Preclassic period of Mesoamerican history—an era characterized by a transition from hunter-gatherer to more complex agricultural societies.
It was located on the southwestern edge of Lake Petén Itzá in what is now Petén Department, Guatemala.The city’s most distinctive feature is its gridded urban core, which is centered on a 2-mile-long row of 21 buildings.
Prudence Rice, the study’s author and a professor of anthropology at Southern Illinois University, has previously proposed that the unusual layout of the Maya city may have been designed to resemble the scaly back of a crocodile in a study published in Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.
According to the study’s authors, the city was planned and built to stimulate social interaction, similar to a modern town. Maps created with GPS data depict the site’s layout and the form of the structures within it, showing its ordered throughways organized in a grid of straight lines.
Crocodiles played an important role in the Maya worldview and represented a number of things, said Timothy Pugh, an anthropology professor at Queens College, City University of New York, who has collaborated with Rice on studies at Nixtun-Ch’ich’.
“The site certainly looks like a crocodile with its bilateral symmetry and city blocks that look like the scaly back of the animal, which appears to be shifting into the lake. We also know that the form of the city could be observed from the high hill to the north,” Pugh added.
According to Pugh and Rice, evidence at the site indicates that Nixtun-Ch’ich’ served as a significant ritual or religious center throughout the pre-classic period, with symbolic public infrastructure and architecture. Their new research was published in the journal Frontiers in Political Science. — Nature World News / Newsweek
Pugh Timothy W., Rice Prudence M., Chan Nieto Evelyn M., Georges Jemima. (2022). Complexity, Cooperation, and Public Goods: Quality of Place at Nixtun-Ch’ich’, Petén, Guatemala, Frontiers in Political Science, 4. DOI=10.3389/fpos.2022.805888