The ruins of a massive ancient city have been uncovered in a remote part of Guatemala, according to reports.
The Mayan ‘megalopolis’ has been discovered thanks to laser technology and drones, which have given scientists the ability to find one of the most advanced ancient cities to date.
The city is now known to envelop famous sites like Tikal, Holmul and Witzna, and show that these famous locations were actually linked as a part of this huge network of architecture.
It has been named a ‘major breakthrough’ in Maya archeology, and the discovery has lead to the identification of 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways and other human-made features which have been hidden under jungle canopy for centuries.
The scientists, headed by the PACUNAM Foundation, digitally mapped the city which is much more complex than scientists had first supposed.
Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College Archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer, said:
The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density has been grossly underestimated.
It is thought the civilisation peaked about 1,200 years ago, with a huge population of 10-15 million over 800 square miles.
The discovery was made possible through LiDAR – Light Imaging, Detection And Ranging – senses, which survey 3D areas using laser pulses from drones.
These techniques have been used to uncover vast swathes of civilisation in recent years, including at Angkor in Cambodia.
According to Marcello Canuto, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer, the Mayan civilisation constructed this city without the use of the wheel or any ‘beasts of burden’.
This was a civilisation that was literally moving mountains. We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilisations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilisations go to die.
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.
This is just the first foray into this area using the data-collection technique, so we’re likely to uncover a bunch more of this stuff in coming years, and hopefully they’re all as exciting as this.