A team of archaeologists have found a long lost Mayan city in the rainforests of eastern Mexico, and they're hoping the discovery will help them figure out what led to the ancient civilization's rise and fall centuries ago. The city, which archaeologists have dubbed Chactun or Red Rock, was in its prime between 600 and 900 AD, and is made up of 15 pyramids, various plazas, homes and offices for elite members of society, and ball courts, according to Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History. The Institute which announced the find on Friday.

As many as 40,000 people may have lived in Chactun during its heyday, according to Reuters. The city is covers about 54 acres of land, and its nearest neighbor is Xpujil, an ancient Mayan town also in ruins, about 10 miles away. The team that found Chactun was led by archeologist Ivan Sprajc, from the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Sprajc told Reuters that the city was completely covered in jungle growth and vegetation when they came across it, but that they have evidence that other people had visited the city about 20 to 30 years ago. "Lumberjacks and gum extractors were certainly already there, because we saw cuts on the trees," Sprajc said in the report. "What happened is they never told anyone."

A city buried in Yucatan's rainforest

Sprajc and his team went on the hunt for Chactun after looking at some aerial photos of rainforests in the Mexican state of Yucatan. "With aerial photographs examined stereoscopically, we found many features that were obviously architectural remains," Sprajc said in an institute statement. "From there we took the coordinates and the next step was to locate the ancient alleys used by tappers and loggers to reach the area." The spent about three weeks clearing a 10-mile path from Xpujil to reach the Chactun, which has is divided into three sections that each have their own monuments, the Institute said. In front of each of the monuments, Sprajc said that his team has found ceramic offerings, which show that these might have been places of worship.

As for why the city was abandoned, more research needs to be done, but the Mayans may have left due to demographic and climate pressures, or wars, the archaeologist told Reuters. At its largest point, the Mayan civilization extended from southern Mexico into Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The discovery of Chactun comes about a week after the lost city of Mahendraparvta was uncovered in Cambodia.