Archaeologists have unearthed a unique 1,200-year-old theatre in Mexico which functioned not as a place for art and culture but as a political tool for Mayan elite.
Researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have found the Mayan theatre at the archaeological site of Plan de Ayutla, in Ocosingo, Chiapas.
The theatre did not seem a place for entertainment but was rather used by Mayan elite to legitimise their power and subjugate local minority groups, Discovery News reported.
"It was a unique theatre, since it was found in an acropolis, 137 feet above the other plazas. The stage lay within a palace complex," Luis Alberto Martos Lopez, director of the research project, said.
Located near the North Acropolis, the theatre was enclosed by buildings dating to 250-550 BC on all sides.
A 26-foot-long facade of one of these buildings was torn down around 850 AD to create the forum and make it work as an acoustic shell.
The unusual architecture makes the theatre stand out, Martos Lopez added.
"It's different from all the other theatres that have already been studied. These theatres were usually located in plazas and were built to entertain the crowds," Martos Lopez said.
In contrast, the newly unearthed theatre seated 120 people at the most.
Near the amphitheatre, the team found whistles, ocarinas and sculptures depicting Mayan deities. They most likely decorated the frieze below the building.
The scene probably represented the brutal ceremony of humiliation of prisoners, often ending in torture and decapitation.
According to Martos Lopez, around 850 AD a "multepal" or shared governance ruled in Plan de Ayutla and used political plays at the theatre to impose their ideologies on local minority groups.
The theatre might have also housed some sort of political rallies.
"We found that a temple northeast of the stage was dismantled to leave space to a small podium for an orator," Marts Lopez said.