A third structure within the Kukulkan pyramid in eastern Mexico has been discovered, revealing that it was built like a “Russian nesting doll,” experts said Wednesday. The discovery suggests that the pyramid was built in three phases.
The newfound pyramid actually sits inside a second pyramid, both of which are enclosed by the larger third pyramid: “It’s built like a Russian nesting doll. Under the large one we get another and another,” chief researcher Rene Chavez Seguro said.
The construction of the El Castillo pyramids took hundreds of years, with each of its structures being built many years apart. The smallest, newly discovered pyramid stands just 33 feet tall and was constructed at the peak of the Mayan civilization, between 550 and 800 A.D. The next biggest pyramid, built 300 years later, stands 66 feet tall while the exterior pyramid, built 600 years after the first, stands 98 feet tall.
It isn’t quite clear why there are so many pyramids stacked on top of each other, but researchers say the new construction could have been due to deteriorating stonework or the arrival of a new leader to the site. Archaeologists only just discovered the innermost pyramid using non-invasive electrical pulses; U.S. researchers first explored the El Castillo pyramid in 1924.
“If we can research this structure in the future it could prove important, because it could tell us about the first-period inhabitants of the site,” said archaeologist Denisse Lorenia Argote.