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Vast network of hidden Maya cities discovered under Guatemala jungle
February 19 2018, 08:03 | Irvin Gilbert
Enormous Ancient City Uncovered by Lasers in Guatemalan Jungle
The LiDAr laser technology penetrates the forest floor to allow an optical vision of what lies beneath. The sprawling pre-Columbian civilization was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed. Based on the data, researchers believe that the region supported an advanced civilization on par with that of ancient Greece or China, rather than a series of isolated city-states.
Experts discovered in the areas of El Zotz, La Corona-Achiotal, Holmul, Naachtum, Uaxactun, Xultun-San Bartolo, Tikal, El Perú-Waka and El Tintal, unknown urban centers with "large squares and pyramids" that took years of construction taking into account traditional methods. Another discovery was a complex network of raised highways linking all the Maya cities in the area.
"There's state involvement here, because we see large canals being dug that are re-directing natural water flows", said Thomas Garrison, assistant professor of Anthropology at Ithaca College in NY. This is an impressive feat for a civilization that is assumed to have never used the wheel or beasts of burden. Now researchers have discovered lost cities and structures near a Guatemalan jungle using the same cutting-edge technology. LIDAR (light and radar) is a technology that's being put to use in a variety of ways in the modern world, including aiding automated robots and cars in navigating their surroundings. The highly accurate measurements are then used to produce a detailed three-dimensional image of the ground surface topography. But the effort in Guatemala is the largest such project ever undertaken.
The researchers chose to map an area of 772 square miles in northern Peten jungle, which is close to Mexico.
Stephen Houston, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Brown University, called the magnitude of the recent survey "breathtaking" and said that the images produced "did bring tears to my eyes".
In their report they estimate that almost ten million people were likely to have been at the heart of the Mayan Empire - the tropical plains of today's Guatemala - which would mean mass production of food. He believes the scale and population density has been "grossly underestimated and could in fact be three or four times greater than previously thought". British archaeologist Thomas Garrison said that several years ago he came within 150 feet of one of the major monument's discovered through this new technology.