News & AnalysisArchaeology

Deep Dig Shows Maya Architecture Arose Independently of Olmec's

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Science  26 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6131, pp. 417
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6131.417

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The origins of the Maya civilization remain one of archaeology's longest-running mysteries. The Maya continually renovated their imposing pyramids and plazas, burying the earliest architecture under thick layers of stone. So researchers have long wondered, did the Maya inherit much of their civilization from the Olmec people in southern Mexico? A study published this week in Science on new data from the Maya city of Ceibal in Guatemala strongly suggests that one key element of Maya civilization—the arrangement of urban ceremonial space—owed little to the Olmec.

  • * Heather Pringle is a contributing editor at Archaeology magazine.