National Geographic : 2002 Apr
* ArchaeologistMichael Smyth eases down a log shield carefully placedto protect an ancient stairway.Smyth, of Rollins College in Florida, has spent seven seasons revealingthe secrets of Chac. Peelingback layers of architecturein thepyramids and other buildings that surround the principalplaza, Smyth has pushed the history of the city back to the fourth century A.D.-several centuriesearlierthan once thought. The new chronology strengthens Smyth's contention of a possible relationshipbetween Chac and the grand metropolis of Teotihuacan, 500 miles to the west in centralMexico. A legend even in its own time (between about A.D. 100 and 650), Teotihuacan was the most powerful city in ancientMesoamerica. Additionalevidence of Teotihuacan's influence comes from the style of burials that Smyth is beginning to find. Deep round holes, about three orfour feet in diameter,are distinctfrom the rectangularburials of other Maya but resemble the style of interment at Teotihuacan. Striking similaritiesalso exist between the size and layout of dwellings in Chac and residentialapartmentcompounds in Teotihuacan.