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Ivan Šprajc – Slovenian Indiana Jones

Ivan Šprajc (pronounced E-von Shprites) is a tranquil version of Harrison Ford’s frenzied film character less 50 pounds, with ice-blue eyes and now sweating through head-to-toe khaki at a streetside table in Tulum. The Slovenian archaeologist’s pioneering work mapping heretofore unknown Maya cities in the deepest Yucatán—battling snakes, insects, rain, and looters—has inspired colleagues to nickname him after the bullwhip-wielding Jones.

“Ivan is one of the last, if not the last, of the great romantic adventurers in archaeology,” says Joe Ball, a professor of anthropology and archaeology at San Diego State University. “Ivan is all about lost cities and how to find them and hacking through the bush to their eventual discovery.”

Two of Šprajc’s recent Yucatán discoveries, the city of Chactún in 2013 and the lakeside Lagunita in 2014, are helping to fill in what is perhaps the greatest blank in the Maya landscape: the trackless 2,800-square-mile wilderness known as the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the southern Yucatán. Land once contested by two great city powers—Calakmul, in modern Mexico, and Tikal, 60 miles south in present-day Guatemala—this former home to thousands emptied in the course of just 200 years, in the 9th and 10th centuries. Secondary growth reclaimed cities with a verdant vengeance, wrapping temples in vines even as later, Post-Classic sites, like Chichén Itzá in the north, continued to thrive. It’s a historical and perhaps environmental mystery that draws Šprajc to machete away the jungle shroud and reveal the story of a great civilization’s collapse.

Read More: http://www.hemispheresmagazine.com

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