BYU Archaeologists Excavating ‘Forgotten City’
March 1979

“BYU Archaeologists Excavating ‘Forgotten City’” Ensign, Mar. 1979, 75

BYU Archaeologists Excavating “Forgotten City”

A Brigham Young University archaeology team is excavating an ancient Guatemalan city, one of the last “forgotten cities” hidden in Latin American jungles.

The city of El Mirador, unoccupied since its inhabitants mysteriously abandoned it nearly 1,500 years ago, is being studied by a group led by Dr. Ray T. Matheny, associate professor of anthropology and archaeology. The four-month expedition is being conducted for BYU’s New World Archaeological Foundation, which marked its 25th anniversary as the team left for El Mirador in January.

El Mirador, about 475 miles northwest of Guatemala City, may be the largest Mayan city ever discovered. Its ruins were first found by Teogerg Maler, a German explorer, in 1800. The ruins were again noted in 1970 by a scientist documenting inscribed stonework for the National Geographic Society.

Guatemalan government officials have given the team permission to establish a small landing strip so that a supply plane can land near the archaeological site. BYU’s team is being joined in February by four other archaeologists from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Preliminary sightings of the main city indicate it could be four or five square kilometers. Some of the buildings are 180 feet tall. Mayans occupied the area from about 600 B.C. to A.D. 500.