Detail of the relief in which, according to the researchers, the real name of the Mayan city of Ocomtún can be read

Ocomtún, the lost Mayan city, and ongoing research

Archaeologists believe the relief discovered in the enigmatic city of Ocomtún, possibly depicts this lost Mayan city’s real name.

A megalithic block in which images and hieroglyphic texts have been preserved could be the key to discovering the real name of the Mayan city of Ocomtún, discovered by researchers last June.

So named by the Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Šprajc for the numerous cylindrical columns scattered across its surface, Ocomtún could finally reveal its true name. Or at least this is what archaeologists believe.

Thanks to LiDAR, a modern laser scanning technique that makes it possible to create a relief map of any terrain from the air, a team of archaeologists found the whereabouts of an unknown Mayan city in the Balamkú ecological reserve, in the Mexican state of Campeche.

The discovery was made by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH) and the Research Center of The Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Stone block used as a step found during recent excavations at Ocomtún
Stone block used as a step found during recent excavations at Ocomtún

Baptized by its discoverers as Ocomtún, a term derived from the Yucatec Mayan language meaning “stone column”, this mysterious Mayan enclave has astounded archaeologists yet again with a remarkable discovery.

Within the ancient settlement, numerous remnants of cylindrical stone columns are scattered, prompting the name association.

The latest find is a substantial stone block measuring 1.82 m in width and 71 cm in length. Adorned with intricate hieroglyphic texts and vivid scenes, this artifact holds the potential to unveil the original name by which the Maya identified their city.

Lord of Maatz

The researcher and epigrapher from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and member of the expedition, Octavio Esparza Olguín, explained that the sculpted monuments found by archaeologists in Ocomtún, mainly cylindrical altars, and stelae, are smooth.

However, when excavating a test pit in the stairway of a building, it was found that the central block of the lower step had been engraved with hieroglyphic scenes and texts that, unfortunately, appear incomplete.

In a more detailed examination of the text, Octavio Esparza has verified that on the left side of the stone monolith appears the image of a captive tied up and face down, of which only the upper part of the body can be seen due to the erosion of the stone.

Detail of the relief in which, according to the researchers, the real name of the Mayan city of Ocomtún can be read

On the right side is the zoomorphic representation of the word witz, which in Mayan hieroglyphic writing means “magic mountain”.

Both images are accompanied by various bands of hieroglyphic cartouches.

In one of them appears the logogram “ajaw” (“lord”), which alludes to a ruler of the Mayan elite. At the top, you can see two signs that form the word “Maatz”, whose combination could mean “Lord of Maatz”. Was this, perhaps, the name of the city?

Mysterious offerings

The name of this site is not documented, so archaeologists had to investigate its meaning in Mayan words.

They suggest that the word Maatz could actually be the original name of Ocomtún. This stone block could have originally formed part of a monument, such as a stela or lintel, and was later reused as a step, located in a new location.

The practice of relocating monuments was common in the Mayan area, as in the case of those found in Chactún, Cobá, Calakmul, or Tikal. Specifically, the stairs of Los Cautivos, in Dzibanché, or that of El Resbalón, in Quintana Roo.

Archaeologists believe that in late times, ignorance of hieroglyphic writing caused many of these iconographic elements to become part of common spaces or places where some kind of ritual was going to be practiced.

This would explain why it was placed upside down since the block is read in the opposite direction of its position.

The researcher also found it striking to locate various offerings in the place, such as a bone carved in the shape of an eight-pointed star, a bifacial flint point, and various ceramic fragments.

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