Researchers from Guatemala's PACUNAM foundation said on Thursday they had mapped the outlines of dozens of newly discovered Maya cities previously hidden deep in the jungle. Needless to say, this is a pretty important discovery for archaeologists interested in Mayan culture and history, but it's also helping to combat some of the mentality that Mayan settlements weren't as robust as those of other cultures. The sprawling pre-Columbian civilization was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed. 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.
Most of the 60,000 structures found are thought to be stone platforms that would have supported the average Maya home.
In addition to the sheer size of the city, archeologists also found evidence of advanced technology, such as raised highways, complex irrigation systems, canals, and reservoirs. This is an impressive feat for a civilization that is assumed to have never used the wheel or beasts of burden.
LiDAR stands for "Light Detection and Ranging". The highly accurate measurements from millions of laser pulses are used to produce a detailed three-dimensional image of the ground surface topography.
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Garrison serves as one of the archaeology advisors to the project, and was fundamental in lobbying for the survey, which is now the single largest ever conducted in the field of Mesoamerican archaeology.
Professor Houston said that the discoveries were "breathtaking" and that the imagery brought him to tears.
This new historical timeline of the Mayan civilization illustrates our lack of a complete knowledge base of our shared past and confirms suspicions by many contemporary researches that our Earth is older and stranger than often believed. More than 800 square miles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala's Peten region have been mapped, according to a report by National Geographic, which is airing a television special about the project Tuesday.
It had previously been thought to be a small mountain in the heart of the ancient Maya city of Tikal, a major tourist destination in northeastern Guatemala.