Stan Serafin has done research into Mayan civilisation. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Stan Serafin has done research into Mayan civilisation. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

Rocky academic unlocks long-lost secrets of ancient Mayans

DR STAN Serafin stares intently at the ancient skull he nurses gently under the probing light.

As he works his way through the skeletal remains discovered on an archaeological site in Mexico, he pauses for a moment, realising that he is living his dream.

The Rockhampton-based academic has just unearthed some long-lost secrets about the ancient Mayan civilisation.

"I feel so lucky to be doing this," the 36-year-old said at his CQUniversity office yesterday.

The bioarchaeologist was part of a team that examined about 200 skulls and skeletons recovered from 13 sites in north-west Yucatan, Mexico, where the Mayan peoples have lived for more than 3000 years.

The research was done to trace changing patterns of violence and warfare relating to distinct periods in Mayan civilisation.

Dr Serafin analysed the human remains, looking at fractures in the skeletons and the frequency of fractures in the skulls.

His work has helped dispel some long-held myths about how Mayans fought and the weaponry they used.

The findings indicate that ancient Mayan military units, made up of highly skilled male warriors, used spiked clubs for combat in open terrain.

Dr Serafin shares the ground-breaking data with an enthusiasm reserved for those who are passionate and devoted to their work.

"It is a privilege to be able to help reconstruct the history of the Mayan peoples - peoples who have often been marginalised in recent times," he said.

Dr Serafin said he yearned to be an archaeologist from an early age and his ambition never wavered.

Born in New Jersey, he completed his PhD studies at university in New Orleans and volunteered on his first archaeological dig in Belize.

His work has taken him to some of the most significant historical sites in the world. He has excavated sacrificial victims of the Moche culture in Peru and analysed 3000-year-old mummified remains in Egypt.

He returns to Mexico on an annual basis, his latest project the excavation and analysis of what could be the first Mayan cemeteries ever discovered at the country's western-most archaeological site of Comalcalco.

Dr Serafin came to Australia in 2008. He moved to Rockhampton in January, taking on the role of lecturer in anatomy and physiology at the School of Human Health and Social Sciences at CQUniversity.

He is happy sharing his time between the classroom and the world's history-laden dig sites.

"It has been incredible," he said. "All of these experiences have been a dream come true."

MAYAN TIMELINE

The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilisation, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems.

Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (c. 2000 BC to AD 250), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Mayan cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (c. AD 250 to 900), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish.



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