Mexico is a land of magical opportunity that is home to some of the world’s most stunning natural scenery,affordable beachfront real estate and a large – not to mention growing – number of significant ancient sites. 2013 has been a remarkable year for explorers and visitors throughout Mexico,with important new discoveries involving the nation’s famed Chichen Itza pyramid,dinosaur bones,stone-age carvings,indigenous people in the Pinacate desert,a lost Mayan city and a 19th century shipwreck that was found near the Yucatan Peninsula.
Chichen Itza Pyramid
Most recently,archaeologists with Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) have announced that new research shows the ancient Mayans used Chichen Itza’s massive pyramid as a sort of astronomical marker.
“Archaeologist Ismael Arturo Montero Garcia revealed that the movement of the sun over the structure occurs on May 23 and July 19,appearing at dawn on the axis of the northeast corner of the Templo de las Mesas,” reports the Global post. “The pyramid ‘points to the path with only one degree of deviation with regard to the entrance to the [nearby] Holtun sinkhole,a site for offerings that is under study,’ Montero said.”
Just a few weeks prior to this,paleontologists digging in Mexico’s northern desert state of Coahuila uncovered the remains of a dinosaur that are more than 72 million years old. The remains are of a hadrosaur,which is also known as a duck-billed dinosaur,and include a completely intact tail of more than 50 vertebrae totaling more than16 feet (five meters) in length,along with a variety of other remains,including one of the creature’s hip bones. The find was significant and the first of its kind in Mexico,according to the INAH.
“We have a very rich history of paleontology,” Francisco Aguilar,the INAH director in Coahuila told The Guardian.
In early July archaeologists unveiled their discovery of thousands of etchings that were carved into stones by hunter-gatherers in Mexico’s northern state of Narigua approximately 6,000 years ago. More than 8,000 of these unique carvings – which are known as petroglyphs – were found and catalogued by researchers. According to the BBC,most of them are made up of circles and lines,while others seem to resemble animal tracks. The images may have been used to represent the night skies or as part of hunter-gatherer initiation rites. The INAH is preparing to begin allowing tourists to visit the site,which lies about 60 miles (100 kilometers) west of Monterrey.
Hidden Mayan City
Also of note,a hidden Mayan city was discovered earlier this year in the central lowlands of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula,not far from the Riviera Maya,Cancun real estate,Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The site has been dubbed Chactun by archaeologists,which means red or large rock,and is one of the largest ever to be discovered in the region. Funded in part by the National Geographic Society,the research has already uncovered a city of more than 50 acres that likely once housed more than 40,000 people and included at least 15 pyramids,ball courts,plazas,homes,altars and intricately carved stone slabs.
19th Century Shipwreck
A 19th century “lost” shipwreck was uncovered earlier this summer on the seabed near Mexico’s Yucatan coast near the notorious Alacranes Reef in an area that has long been known for sinking ships. The British mail ship was lost on January 14,1849 on its way to Bermuda and a team from the INAH has finally discovered its remains. The dive also uncovered a variety of metal items,including boilers,machinery,propellers,anchors and skegs,leading researchers to believe there may also be other ships nearby.
Desert Biosphere Reserve
Finally,Mexico’s El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve in the Sonoran desert has achieved UNESCO World Heritage Status this year,thanks to its rich cultural heritage,ties to indigenous people,massive sand dunes and colossal volcanic craters. The reserve includes more than 715,000 hectares that are surrounded by a substantial buffer zone. The region is home to more than 540 species of vascular plants,44 mammals,200 birds,more than 40 reptiles and a variety of amphibians. The area is also considered to be sacred by the indigenous Tohono O’odham people and is one of only five properties added to the exclusive list in 2013.