Archaeologists have discovered a unique steam bathhouse which was carved in rock over 2,500 years ago in an ancient Mayan city.
The discovery was made in the ancient Mayan city of Nakum in the Peten Basin region in the modern-day Guatemalan department of Peten.
The bath is located in the northern part of Nakum in an area containing temples, pyramids and palaces from the same and later periods.
The bathhouse that was buried under mortar and rubble until it was found is believed to have been in use from around 700 BC to 300 BC.
According to a spokesperson from the Institute of Archaeology of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, southern Poland, who supervised excavation works, steam baths, apart from serving a purely practical function, were associated with ritual activity in the belief system of the ancient Mayans.
They were used for the symbolic cleansing of the soul before participation in important feasts.
Researchers state that similar baths were used by Mayans for thousands of years, but so far they have mostly discovered only small parts of such ritual buildings.
A spokesman for the archaeologists said: “This fact is why our discovery in the form of an almost completely preserved complex is so important.”
Archaeologists from the Jagiellonian University have been investigating the ruins of the ancient city in Nakum for over a dozen years.
So far, they have been able to unearth architectural structures which served a variety of functions, tombs and temples as well as palaces and residential complexes.
Nakum (“House of the pot”) is a Mesoamerican archaeological site, and a former ceremonial centre and city of the pre-Colombian Maya civilisation.