This ancient Maya city may have helped the Snake King dynasty spread

La Corona
MAYA HUB An ancient Maya site called La Corona (shown in this artist’s illustration with a ceremonial center in the foreground) was a remote but key part of a large Classic Maya state, new research suggests.

WASHINGTON — New insights into an ancient Maya kingdom are coming from a remote outpost in the Guatemalan jungle.

Aerial laser maps, excavations and stone-slab hieroglyphics indicate that La Corona, a largely rural settlement, became a key part of a far-ranging Classic-era Maya kingdom that incorporated sites from southern Mexico to Central America, researchers reported on April 15 at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. Classic Maya civilization lasted from around 250 to 900.

A dynasty of Kaanul rulers, also called Snake Kings, expanded their domain from their home city of Calakmul in Mexico by using La Corona as a relay center for precious stones and other goods from Kaanul-controlled sites farther south, said archaeologist Marcello Canuto.

“Our work supports the idea that the ancient Maya formed interconnected political systems, not largely separate city-states as traditionally thought,” said Canuto, of Tulane University in New Orleans, who codirects the La Corona excavation.

Laser mapping in 2016 covered more than 2,100 square kilometers of the Guatemalan lowlands containing many ancient Maya sites. A small plane equipped with light detection and ranging equipment, or lidar, used laser pulses to gather data on the shape of the ground covered by trees and vegetation (SN: 7/23/16, p. 9). Lidar findings often guide investigators to previously unrecognized remains of past settlements.

Lidar evidence showed that a small, heavily populated core area at La Corona had existed within a large, sparsely populated rural expanse. Canuto estimates that between 2 million and…

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