Polish archaeologists discover unique Mayan bathhouse in Guatemala

Polish archaeologists have discovered in the ancient Mayan city of Nakum in Guatemala a unique, over 2,500 years old steam bath carved in the rock.

The bathhouse is located in the northern part of Nakum, on its main north-south axis. In the same area there are ruins of temples, pyramids and buildings (including palaces) from the same and later period.

The bathhouse likely functioned from about 700 BC. to around 300 BC. Then it was completely covered with mortar and rubble.

According to Wiesław Koszkul from the Institute of Archaeology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, southern Poland, who supervised excavation works, in the belief system of the ancient Maya, steam baths, apart from serving a purely practical function, were associated with ritual activity. It was there that the symbolic cleansing of the soul before participation in important feasts were performed.

Maya researchers claim that similar baths have been used by the Mayans over past millennia, but so far they have mostly discovered only small fragments. "Therefore, our discovery in the form of an almost completely preserved complex is so important," said Jaroslaw Źrałka from the Institute of Archeology at the Jagiellonian University, who co-managed excavation works.

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 palace and residential complexes.