Published: Wed, February 07, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Lost Mayan 'Mega Cities' Discovered Under Jungle in Guatemala

Lost Mayan 'Mega Cities' Discovered Under Jungle in Guatemala

The study estimates that roughly 10 million people may have lived within the Maya Lowlands, meaning that kind of massive food production might have been needed.

The discoveries include urban centers with sidewalks, homes, terraces, ceremonial centers, irrigation canals and fortifications, said Canuto, an archaeologist at Tulane University in the U.S.

The researchers were using LiDAR technology, which is short for "light detection and ranging".

LiDAR is a method of mapping from the sky: An airplane-mounted device sends a constant pulse of laser light across a swath of terrain; precise measurements of how long it takes the emitted breams to bounce off surfaces are taken and translated into topographic data. While experts had previously been aware of some form of ancient settlement in the area, this new find reveals that the city is at least four times larger than expected, suggesting this area was far more populated than previously believed.

"Their agriculture is much more intensive and therefore sustainable than we thought, and they were cultivating every inch of the land", said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Research Assistant Professor at Tulane University, noting the ancient Mayas partly drained swampy areas that haven't been considered worth farming since. Another impressive finding in the region was a highly organized workforce to build the defense and agricultural systems.

Vast network of hidden Maya cities discovered under Guatemala jungle
Hidden Maya cities uncovered

The scientists found more than 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten.

Researchers have uncovered more than 60,000 structures, including pyramids, palaces and causeways through the power of ground-penetrating laser technology.

In addition, researchers found Mayan cities had been connected due to highways that were elevated to allow easy ways to get through during tropical seasons.

Garrison noted that unlike some other ancient cultures, whose fields, roads and outbuildings have been destroyed by subsequent generations of farming, the jungle grew over abandoned Maya fields and structures, both hiding and preserving them. But the effort in Guatemala is the largest such project ever undertaken. The group of researchers used aircrafts, such as planes or helicopters, with LiDAR technology to create a 3D map of what it looks like underneath the jungle, in addition to an augmented reality app.

In a way, the structures were hiding in plain sight.

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