Archaeologists are using high-tech mapping technology to virtually unearth a massive network of Mayan ruins hidden for centuries in the thick jungles of Guatemala. Albert Lin is an engineer and National Geographic explorer who worked on a television special about the breakthrough. They’ve been able to identify more than 60,000 previously unknown Maya structures. This breakthrough discovery changes everything archaeologists previously thought about this ancient culture.
The breakthrough discovery was made using Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, which works by beaming millions of laser pulses from a plane to the ground below. As the wavelengths bounce back, they are measured to create detailed topographical maps. In Guatemala, LiDAR allowed a team of researchers, supported by the PACUNAM Foundation, to map more than 800 square miles of land obscured by dense foliage.
“I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology,” as Brown University archaeologist Stephen Houston, who collaborated on the project, put it in an interview with the BBC.
All images courtesy of MyModernMet
Previous assessments estimated just 1 or 2 million people lived in the Maya lowlands. But researchers now believe as many as 20 million people may have lived there.These findings will be explored in more detail in “Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings” , a documentary premiering February 6 on the National Geographic Channel.
And the recent survey is only the first phase of PACUNAM’s LiDAR Initiative, which seeks to map more than 5,000 square miles of Guatemala’s lowlands over the course of three years.
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