Volcanic Evidence Opens New Maya Mystery

Tough and tiny zircon crystals have helped researchers rule out an enormous volcanic blast as the source of ash used to make Maya pottery, deepening this long-running archaeological mystery.

"While we're a little sad not to have solved the mystery, we're really confident we can say the most likely source quite conclusively isn't a match," said lead author Kevin Coffey, a geology master's student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

However, the results did a reveal a tantalizing new pottery puzzle for scientists to solve — whether the Maya's ash came from one volcano or many spewing cones. [Image Gallery: Stunning Mayan Murals]

"Every time I turn another leaf in this thing, it opens up a new problem," said study co-author Anabel Ford, director of the MesoAmerican Research Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara.