Mayan Calendar
In yet another Mayan archaeological find, a religious house of the ancient civilisation has been discovered in Peten, Guatemala. Wiki Commons/Wolfgang Sauber

Archaeologists in Guatemala have discovered an ancient Mayan Temple.

The structure dating back about 700 years was unearthed at the site of Nixtun-Ch'ich' in Petén.

The house has altars and sculpted artworks featuring animal figures that indicate the house would have been used for religious or sacred purposes.

According to researcher Timothy Pugh, a professor at Queens College in New York, the Mayan council house has two halls, constructed side by side, the walls of which were once adorned with sculpted imagery of reptiles and parrots.

The house's two altars were decorated with turtle figures sculpted on each.

Pugh said a Mayan group called the Chakan Itza would have used this council house as a place for worshipping, to hold meetings, and for marriage ceremonies.

"Basically almost every political and religious ritual would have been held there," Pugh told Live Science.

"The leaders who gathered there would have held power in the community and perhaps the broader region."

An incense burner showing the head of Itzamna, a Mayan deity, was also discovered at the council house.

Some of the other incense burners recovered at the site seem to be shaped like a seedling ceiba tree, which is the national tree of Guatemala and which, Pugh said, held importance to the Mayan people.

According to archaeologists, the council house was in use between AD1300 and 1500 and perhaps a few years after 1500.

But around 1500, the Mayan group may have destroyed the house to move the seat of power to another location.

"The Maya paid close attention to time and calendars. After a certain cycle of time they would move the ruling seat to a new location," Pugh said.

He added: "They destroyed the altars and they covered the building [with dirt]. They basically conducted a ritual that cancelled out the power of this space."