Discovered in a remote nature reserve they are hoping to learn more about how the civilization collapsed around 1,000 years ago.
The team, led by Ivan Sprajc, associate professor at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, found 15 pyramids – including one that stands 75 feet tall – ball courts, plazas and tall, sculpted stone shafts called stelae.
They named the city Chactun, meaning ‘Red Rock’ or ‘Large Rock’.
Chactun likely had its heyday during the late Classic period of Maya civilization between 600 and 900 A.D., Sprajc said.
The team’s research was approved by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History and funded by the National Geographic Society and two European companies.
Sprajc said the site — which covers 22 hectares (54 acres) and lies 75 miles due west of Chetumal — is one of the largest found in the Yucatan’s central lowlands.
While unknown to the academic world, Sprajc found evidence that the site had been visited as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, but not since.
‘Lumberjacks and gum extractors were certainly already there, because we saw cuts on the trees,’ ‘What happened is they never told anyone.’ Sprajc told Discovery News
While studying aerial photographs taken by the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity 15 years ago to monitor the nature reserve, Sprajc and his team believed they could see signs of ruins and marked the coordinates.
They then spent three arduous weeks cutting a 10-mile (16-km) path through the jungle to reach the site.
After mapping the site for six weeks and documenting the monuments, they blocked the path before leaving to thwart access.
The presence of multiple ball game courts is an indication that Chactun was a very important city, Sprajc said.
It was likely abandoned around the year 1,000, probably due to demographic pressure, climate change, wars and rebellions.
Sprajc hopes the find could help understand more the relations between different regions of the Maya empire during that period.
The Maya civilization was one of the most advanced in the pre-Columbian Americas and ruled over vast areas of the Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras at its height.