Ancient Maya city of Tikal in Guatemala
Archaeologists have harnessed sophisticated technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle, confirming that the Maya civilization was much larger than previously thought.
The surveys have offered new insights into the sophisticated organization of the Mayan civilization at the height of their cultural and political dominance between 250 and 900 AD.
Experts used remote surveying technology to see through the thick canopy of forest, revealing more than 60,000 structures in a sprawling network of cities, farms, highways and fortifications. The extent of ancient Maya agriculture also stunned archaeologists, who said that the civilization produced food “on an almost industrial scale.”
An international team of scientists and archaeologists took part in the LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) initiative, surveying more than 772 square miles of the Guatemalan jungle by plane. Their findings have been revealed in digital maps and an augmented reality app.
"Everyone is seeing larger, denser sites. Everyone," Thomas Garrison, an assistant professor of anthropology at Ithaca College, said in a news release.
"There's a spectrum to it, for sure, but that's a universal: everyone has missed settlement in their [previous] mapping."
"Frankly, it's turning our discipline on its head," he said.
The results revealed Mayan structures and organization at a scale underestimated by all previous studies. The Mayan people constructed massive terraces for farming, as well as canals and irrigation systems. They built highways linking dense urban centers.