A Danish led Mayan-expedition finds two undiscovered temple cities in Guatemala
Two undiscovered cities in Guatemala finds by a Danish led Mayan expedition
In 2023, A Danish – Guatemalan expedition has discovered two unregistered and unknown Mayan cities
that were abandoned for over a millennium. In collaboration with archaeologist Jorge Chocon from the
Atlas Arqueologico de Guatemalas. The expedition was led by the Mayan specialist and adventurer
Christian Lygum Christensen in the company of skilled speleologist Torben Redder and Guatemalan Esdras
Prior to the success of the two new discoveries Christian Lygum Christensen has previously found unknown
and unregistered Mayan cities that were up to 2,500 years old. Many years of research and expeditions of
the Mayan cities has resulted in both TV documentaries, interviews, featured in the academic journal
Mexicon and the publication of his own books. The latest finds in 2023 have already been measured and
include, among other things, the center in the first Mayan city, which the expedition has now named El
Triunfo. The ruins were discovered on a plateau, approx. half a km north of the river El Chilar, located in a
2,000 km² rough terrain in the northern Petén province.
The discovery of the temple city of El Triunfo
“We found El Triunfo southeast of the ancient royal city of Machaquilà, which was discovered back in 1958.
The latter and El Triunfo were probably abandoned by the Maya around 900 AD. – a period when many of
the cities suddenly perished. Experts are still debating the cause if it was it a natural disaster - climate
change or a deadly pandemic? I chose the latter says Christian Lygum Christensen.
Wearing expedition clothes - indiana jones style they went through the jungle, armed with matchetes and
GPS positions. Whilst the storm raged at the mountains, and howler monkeys screams goes along with
the grumbles of thunder and lightning, the three men struggled looking at the map, which had been
generated at home on Christian’s farm in Vejle.
And suddenly there it was – the temple city In the open area, we could immediately locate the various
buildings that the Maya had built from hewn stones. And then it didnt take much imagination to imagine
how the priests and the citys ruler have invoked the gods from the temple on the 20 m high pyramid,
while the subjects have followed the scenery from the ceremonial road," says Christian with enthusiasm.
In front of the pyramid, the expedition found a broken stele, i.e., a stone pillar, and south of the pyramid
issued the 235 m long and 22 m wide ceremonial road, which stretched from east to west and ended at a
168 m long platform. The platform was equipped with a 100-metre-wide staircase that led up to several
12-metre-high platforms. The palace-like stone buildings on the summit now lie in ruins after more than a
thousand years of futile struggle against the jungle and the ravages of time. The discovery is also an
excellent illustration of how difficult it can be to find the abandoned Mayan cities. Back in 2001, the
archaeologist Jorge Chocon participated in an expedition that located a ruined city south of the El Chilar
river - just 1 km south of the newly discovered El Triunfo!
Temple City No. 2 with possible astronomical calendar
A few days later of continues searching, another unknown Mayan city is discovered, which, like El Triunfo,
has lain unnoticed for more than 1,200 years. The temple city, still waiting to be named, is 2.5 km north of
the great Machaquila River and just 7 km from the La Machaca ruins that Christian encountered in 1986.
Temple city no. 2 became particularly interesting as I thought I recognized a unique Mayan construction.
The city center was located on a 300 m long platform with at least 15 ruins. In front of me was an 80 m
long structure with 3 ruins on top, and 40 meters to the west I could see a pyramid. The elements
appeared to form the so-called E-system, which allows the suns rays to mark the shortest day of the year,
the equinox, and the longest day of the year. However, the pyramid construction must be examined more
closely to confirm if it is an E system. In 1925, the late world-famous Danish Mayan archaeologist Frans
Blom found out that the Mayans had incorporated an astronomical calendar with that type of facility, says
Without a doubt, the search for Mayan cities has been a tough time. They have all put in a lot of blood,
sweat and tears, especially the area west of the city of Poptún as well as north and south of the
Over 44 years, his expeditions have located no less than 13 unknown Mayan cities. However, the voyages
of discovery are not entirely harmless. Over time, several members of the expedition have been exposed
to both hostile inhabitants and tropical diseases of all kinds. This time was no exception. Esdras Gill barely
avoided stepping on one of Guatemala's most venomous lance snakes. In another instance, Esdras and his
machete were able to save Torben Redder in time, who was stuck in a rock hole, where another venomous
snake was hissing. You can read more about the intense hardships and the expeditions discoveries in
Christians latest book: The Temple Hunter - on an expedition among Indians, cocaine smugglers and grave
robbers in Guatemala", published in 2020 by the publisher Turbine. As the first travelogue since Frans
Bloms in 1927, the book mixes both adventure and Mayan archaeology.
The registration of the newly discovered temple cities has taken place in collaboration with the
archaeologists Jorge Chocòn from the Atlas Arqueologico de Guatemala, Guido Krempel from Germany and
the Austrian researcher Karl Herbert Mayer. I would also like to thank Jona Moralla Christensen for her
help during the expedition.
References and contact:
Guido Krempel, archaeologist, University of Bonn, Germany.
Jorge Chocón, archaeologist, Atlas Arqueologico de Guatemala, Dolores, Guatemala.
Christian Lygum Christensen, born on 26.03.57. Self-employed. Since 1979 carried out countless
expeditions in Guatemala and co-author of several scientific articles. Led the first Danish Mayan expedition
in 66 years after archaeologist Franz Blom's expedition in 1936 to Honduras. Maya specialist and member
of the Adventurers' Club.
Christian Lygum Christensen