Discovering Mesoamerica


The archeologist Ivan Šprajc investigates his surroundings in the jungles of Mexico. The Slovenian man began exploring the wilds of the region in 1996 in search of ancient Mayan ruins. “On several occasions we’ve had two, three weeks of just cutting through the bush to get to some location, without knowing what we would find… When we get to the site it feels like a big victory.”

Bim Peacock, Staff Writer

Of every trade a person could think of, archeology typically comes across as the least interesting option available.  That maybe so in most situations, but not if such a profession entails exploring desolate jungles, fighting nature for survival, and discovering worlds lost to history.  Of anyone who could live such a life fantasized by Indiana Jones movies, there’s hardly another person who could compare to the archeologist Ivan Šprajc, the man who has searched for and discovered many of the ancient lost cities of Mesoamerica.

The Slovenian man has been exploring the wilds of Mexico and nearby areas since 1996, searching for signs and sites of ancient civilizations.  Since his beginning, Šprajc’s team has discovered over 80 cities of Mayan origin.  These cities, many of which show signs of being massive powerhouses, have been abandoned since before the 10th century.  These remnants give brilliant insight into the ancient society, showing bits and pieces of what Mayan life was like.

Of his many fantastic discoveries, his most renowned and fascinating was the finding of a massive stone doorway carved in the image of an earth monster; a beautiful artifact of a culture long gone.  It is discoveries like these that give him the greatest pleasure in his life.

“When we get to the site it feels like a big victory,” Šprajc said.

He continued on to say, “If it had been easy, then other people would have done it already,” describing how the job may be difficult, but the reward of discovery is worth every effort.

His recent discoveries have been the first steps in a long term undertaking.  Explorers like him are attempting to map out an unexplored 1200 sq mile site, full of mysteries untouched by man for centuries.  Being a biosphere reserve, almost all human contact has been withheld until now.

Even with the curiosities that could be found within every nook and cranny, Šprajc is uninterested in excavation or mapping to any extent.  As an explorer, his interest lies in the discovery itself.

“Extensive mapping is not our job. We are taking the first step into an unknown area,” Šprajc said.

Even so, his spearheading of the exploration allows future archeologists to find the sites they may never have discovered themselves.  Yes, in the great scheme of things, Šprajc’s expeditions are the first step to a greater understanding of the mysterious world of the Maya.