Under the Guatemala Forest, Maya 'Megalopolis' appeared

The researchers made an invention, which they called "a major turning point" in Maya archeology. More than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated roads and other man-made remains have been discovered for hundreds of years under the forests of Northern Guatemala.
Using revolutionary technology known as LiDAR, archaeologists removed trees from the aerial imagery of this unmanned landscape today. Researchers have revealed the vast remnants of a pre-Columbian civilization, much more complex and interconnected than most Maya experts thought.

"The LiDAR images reveal that the scale and population density of the entire region is a much higher settlement system than expected," said Thomas Garrison, an expert in digital technology for archaeological research.

Garrison is part of a research consortium participating in the project, led by the PACUNAM Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports scientific research, sustainable development and protection of cultural heritage.

The project produced the largest LiDAR dataset for archaeological research, drawing a map of 82,100 square kilometers of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of Guatemala.

The results reveal that in the brightest period of Central America 1,200 years ago, it was an advanced civilization comparable to sophisticated cultures such as Ancient Greece or ancient China. The previous surveys believed that the civilization here was scattered and sparsely populated city countries.
In addition to hundreds of previously unknown structures, LiDAR images showed elevated roads linking city centers and quarries. Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture, which could feed the workers and the masses who dramatically reshaped the landscape.

"The ancient Maya never used the wheel or the load animals, but this was a civilization that literally moved the mountains," Marcello Canuto, in the research project said. says.

“We have a sassy western view that believes that complex civilizations cannot thrive in the tropics and that civilizations will disappear in the tropics. However, with the new LiDAR-based evidence in Central America and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, we should now consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and may have moved outwards from there. ”
Surprise information
Archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli said, “LiDAR is creating a revolution in archeology, like the revolution Hubble Space Telescope has created in astronomy. It takes 100 years to process all the data and really understand what we see. ”

Already done surveys gave surprising information about the settlement patterns of Mayan plains, inter-city connection and militarization. In the brightest period of the Maya classic period (about 250-900 AD), civilization covered an area twice the size of medieval England, but its population was much more dense.

Estrada-Belli, carrying out a multi-disciplinary archaeological project in Guatemala, said, “Most people can easily make a population estimate of about 5 million. With these new data, it is not unreasonable to think that there are between 10 and 15 million people living in swampy areas that most of us do not think possible. ” says.
Almost all Mayan cities were connected in a wide range of ways to suggest that they are being used for trade and other forms of regional interaction, indicating excessive traffic. These roads were elevated to allow easy movement even in rainy seasons. In other parts of the world, water flows in places with precipitation were carefully planned and controlled through canals, ditches and reservoirs.

Among the most surprising findings were defensive walls, walls, terraces and castles everywhere. Garrison said, “The war was not only towards the end of civilization. It was large-scale and systematic and lasted for years. ” says.

In the surface survey, thousands of pits opened by today's looters were exposed. “Many of these new archaeological sites are new to us only,” said Marianne Hernandez, director of the PACUNAM foundation. not new to looters. ” says.

Environmental degradation is another concern. Guatemala has traditionally lost more than 10% of its forests, and loss of habitat along its border with Mexico has accelerated due to the burning and cleaning of land for illegal agriculture and human settlement.

"By hoping to identify these archaeological sites and help understand who these ancient people are, we hope to raise awareness of the value of protecting these places." says.

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