The Mirador Basin has no rivers (and had a population of hundreds of thousands in the late Preclassic) so the Maya developed extremely efficient water collection systems so that all available rainfall was channelled to huge reservoirs. In 2008, while investigating water channels in the Central Acropolis, archeologists discovered elaborately sculptured panels with scenes from the Maya creation story, the Popol Vuh. The two stucco panels, measuring 6m by 8m and still in situ, were carved about 200 BC and show the mythical hero twins swimming into the underworld to retrieve the decapitated head of their father. Dr Richard Hansen described it as like “like finding the Mona Lisa in the sewage system”.

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In pictures: traditional dress around the world

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The best photography on Picfair: the locals

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