An ambitious LiDAR (light detection and ranging) survey of forested areas in Guatemala has revealed more than 60,000 previously undetected ancient structures, including isolated houses, large palaces, ceremonial centers, and stone pyramids.
LiDAR technology is able to pierce through thick forest canopy and map features on the Earth’s surface.
The maps can often reveal changes in elevation, enabling archaeologists to identify human-made features on the ground, such as walls, roads or buildings.
“We searched for traces of the ancient Maya civilization in a restricted location, where our team has operated for ten years and has performed large archeological excavations,” said Professor Milan Kovac, from Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia.
“The discoveries were made in a matter of minutes, compared to what would have taken years of fieldwork without the LiDAR technology,” added Dr. Francisco Estrada-Belli, a research assistant professor and director of the Holmul Archaeological Project.
“Seen as a whole, terraces and irrigation channels, reservoirs, fortifications and causeways reveal an astonishing amount of land modification done by the Maya over their entire landscape on a scale previously unimaginable.”
The team identified the ruins of more than 60,000 ancient Maya structures, including ‘73 stone buildings, 4,775 mountain terraced fields, and 5,080 architectonic objects mainly in the shape of pyramids.’
“It seems clear now that the ancient Maya transformed their landscape on a grand scale in order to render it more agriculturally productive,” said Dr. Marcello Canuto, director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University.
“As a result, it seems likely that this region was much more densely populated than what we have traditionally thought.”
“According to the analyzed data, gained by scanning, it was inhabited by 10-15 million people,” Professor Kovac added.
The project was funded by Fundación PACUNAM (Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya), which was founded in 2006 in Guatemala as a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering scientific research, conservation and sustainable development of cultural and natural resources in the Maya Biosphere Reserve.
Source link: https://www.sci.news/archaeology/maya-structures-guatemala-05750.html