Mayan Network Discovered Under Guatemalan Jungle
Over 60,000 hidden Mayan structures have been discovered underneath the remote Guatemalan jungle.
By virtue of aerial laser technology called LiDAR, researchers were able to virtually remove tree canopies enveloping the area, displaying ruins of an ancient Mayan dynasty known as the “Snake Kings”.
The ruins were discovered near previously uncovered Mayan cities. The area was home to an advanced society composed of millions of inhabitants that peaked approximately 1,200 years ago.
According to Thomas Garrison, an archaeologist at Ithaca College,“The Lidar images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated."
It was previously thought that Mayan cities, were on the whole, self-sufficient and isolated. However, these new scans reveal elevated highways that connect urban centers and quarries, providing evidence that this was, in fact, a deeply interconnected and complex network of indigenous societies.
National Geographic reports that the scans also suggest that the Mayans were more advanced than previously believed. Resembling that of Ancient Greece or China, as this interconnected society was probably involved not only in agriculture but in trade and travel.
Francisco Estrada-Belli, an archaeologist at Tulane University and National Geographic Explorer stated: “LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy.” He adds, “we’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.”
Archaeologists working to excavate a Mayan site called El Zotz in northern Guatemala had been mapping the area for years, but LiDAR scans were able to help uncover kilometers of fortifications that might have remained unnoticed if not for the help of LiDAR technology.
LiDAR imagery has saved archaeologists years of on-the-ground searching. In recent years, it has been used to find hidden cities in the Cambodian jungle.
“The ambition and the impact of this project is just incredible,” said Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a University of Calgary archaeologist and Mayan specialist. “After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites. More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilization as the ancient Maya saw it.”