A team of researchers from several universities in the United States, France and Guatemala, discovered a huge 2,000-year-old Mayan civilization in northern Guatemala.
The group describes using LiDAR to conduct a survey of the area in a paper published in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica.
LiDAR, like radar, is a detection system that uses laser light rather than radio waves. In recent years, it has been used to search for ancient civilizations in dense tropical rain forests. Lasers used in such systems can penetrate vegetative canopies over rain forests, revealing what is underneath them.
Scientists led by Richard Hansen, an archaeologist at Idaho State University and the director of the Mirador Basin Project, provide “an introduction to one of the largest, contiguous, regional LiDAR studies published to date in the Maya Lowlands,” a region that includes parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.
The researchers discovered what they describe as a massive ancient Maya civilization while flying over parts of Guatemala as part of a mapping project.
The researchers were also able to see that the people who had resided in the settlements were densely packed, contradicting theories that early Mesoamerican settlements were sparsely populated.
They also discovered evidence of enormous platforms and pyramids in several settlements, indicating that some of them served as centralized centers for work, recreation, and politics.
They also note that some of the settlements had ball courts, which previous study has revealed were used for a variety of regional games. The researchers also found that the civilization’s inhabitants built reservoirs and canals to move and store water for use during dry spells.
Hansen and his colleagues expect that future study will continue to uncover the mysteries of this ancient civilization and, possibly, discover other settlements that have been hidden for centuries.
More information: Richard D. Hansen et al,. (2022). LiDAR analyses in the contiguous Mirador-Calakmul Karst Basin, Guatemala: an introduction to new perspectives on regional early Maya socioeconomic and political organization, Ancient Mesoamerica.DOI: 10.1017/S0956536122000244