The Great City in Lake Atitlán
Discovered in 1994 in Panajachel in Guatemala’s Department of Sololá, by archeologist, Roberto Samayoa, Guatemala’s Atlantis, Samabaj, is not very well known, even to Guatemalans. Why? Because this great Mayan city is submerged in the beautiful Lake Atitlán. The city thought to possibly be Guatemala’s first city, is also believed to be over 2,000 years old. Considered to be one of the most important cities of the Pre-Classic Maya Civilization, this 4,300 square-foot (400 square-meter) area is more than 50 feet (16 meters) below Lake Atitlán’s surface.
Samayoa discovered artifacts, covered in thousands of years of sediment, such as building fragments, ceramics and pottery, and stelea (Mayan ceremonial stones) below the lake’s surface while recreationally diving in the lake. Later when researchers finally took an interest in the city, the area was mapped with sonar and structures were excavated, discovering several ceremonial monuments and altars. The residential areas, made up of several small houses, also possess many religious elements, leading researchers to believe this site was a crucial location for religious pilgrimage for the Mayan people.
Likely an island during the height of the city’s existence, it is believed that a cataclysmic event such as a volcanic eruption or earthquake caused a rise in the lake’s water level, burying the city under water around 250 A.D. The presence of intact ceramics indicates that the city’s inhabitants left the island in a hurry.
Archeological experts and researchers believe that, next to Tikal, the city of Samabaj is one of the most valuable treasures for Guatemala and the Mayan Civilization.