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Laser Mapping Unearths 60,000 Ancient Maya Structures in Guatemalan Jungle



Since I can remember learning about the Maya Civilization, I have been  fascinated by it’s story.

The one real issue is that we know so little about what really lies in waiting due to the thick vegetation that covers most of the Central American floor.

A group of scientists may have figured it all out and have taken to laser mapping which has successfully led to the discovery of 60,000 Maya structures.

This breakthrough inevitably changes everything we thought we knew and the LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) method which they utilized has covered over 800 square miles of the Guatemalan forest.

The findings suggest that that over 20 million inhabitants were a possibility where previous estimations suggested around 1-2 million, placing Maya civilizations in the same bracket as the ancient Egyptians or Chinese civilizations, where the population would not only increase, but the sophistication of the people.

“There are entire cities we didn’t know about now showing up in the survey data,” says archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli, who is co-leading the initiative. “There are 20,000 square kilometers more to be explored and there are going to be hundreds of cities in there that we don’t know about. I guarantee you.”

The LiDAR results show that the Maya were living in interconnected cities, had c=vast elevated highways and farms, with fortifications. This shows the possibility that they were able to produce food on an industrial scale.

“We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilizations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilizations go to die,” shared Marcello Canuto, an archeologist from Tulane University who worked on the project. “But with the new LiDAR-based evidence from Central America and Angkor Wat, we now have to consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and made their way outward from there.”

Scientists have so much data to work through that the discovery process has only just started, merely scratching the surface of what’s to come. In fact, we’re in the first stage of PACUNAM’s 3 year survey initiative which is set to survey over 5,000 square miles of Guatemalan Lowlands.

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