Using a technology known as Lidar (a type of scan done in the air), a team of archaeologists found traces of previously unknown Maya settlements in the Guatemala jungle.
The Lidar technology is a powerful technique for the three-dimensional mapping of topographical features of a soil. It is now turning out to be a valuable tool in archeology where the remains of structures can be hidden in the forests, in areas that are impassable or difficult to reach.
Lidar is similar to sonar or radar, but uses radar light explosions to map an area.
Its operation is realized in air passages back and forth on a chosen area, flying along parallel lines. This make it possible to obtain a three-dimensional map that, in this case, has allowed to identify settlements with houses and temples, defensive fortifications such as ditches, as well as terraces and agricultural roads.
The biggest surprise for the archaeologists was to discover large areas of wetlands full of canals. “All these hundreds of square kilometers of what we thought was a useless swamp, were actually some of the most productive farmland” they commented.
The result of the archaeologists’ work was surprising. Hidden pyramids and impressive fortresses were found in the jungle. Farms, canals and scattered walkways, wide trails running through rainforest woods.
The discoveries, published last September 28th 2018 in “Science”, provide a snapshot of how the ancient Maya settled in those places for more than 2,500 years, from 1000 BC to 1500 AD.
The results of the work carried out in the areas concerned indicated that the Maya society of the plains was an interconnected regional network of densely populated and defended cities, supported by a series of agricultural practices, able to optimize the soil productivity and interactions between rural and urban communities.
This new settlement is added to the more than 61,000 ancient Mayan structures engulfed by excessive growth in the tropical plains of Guatemala.