Research team uncovers ancient Maya capital in a Mexican backyard

Researchers have been searching for Sak Tz’i’, an important city from the ancient Maya civilization, since 1994; thanks in part to Brown anthropologists, they now have physical evidence that it existed.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — For days, a man selling carnitas on the side of the road in rural Mexico tried to get Whittaker Schroder’s attention as he drove past.

At first, Schroder — a University of Florida archaeologist and a Class of 2010 Brown University graduate — thought the man was simply trying to sell him food. Schroder doesn’t eat meat, so he ignored the vendor.

Eventually, he wondered if the man had something else to share. One day, he pulled over, and the man began to describe a stone tablet that his friend had discovered in his backyard. The man’s friend, a cattle rancher, thought the tablet might be thousands of years old, left behind by the Maya.

He was right — and the tablet wasn’t the only extraordinary artifact to be found. As Schroder, Brown Associate Professor of Anthropology Andrew Scherer, Brandeis University anthropologist Charles Golden and other colleagues continued to explore and excavate the rancher’s backyard in June 2018, they realized it was the site of the long-lost Maya capital of Sak Tz’i’ — Mayan for “white dog.”

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