Republication from Washington Post

by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. February 3 at 3:59 PM Email the author

This digital 3-D image provided by Guatemala’s Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation, PACUNAM, shows a depiction of the Maya archaeological site at Tikal in Guatemala created using lidar aerial mapping technology.  (Canuto & Auld-Thomas/PACUNAM via AP)

Archaeologists have spent more than a century traipsing through the Guatemalan jungle, Indiana Jones-style, searching through dense vegetation to learn what they could about the Maya civilization that was one of the dominant societies in Mesoamerica for centuries.

But the latest discovery — one archaeologists are calling a “game changer” — didn’t even require a can of bug spray.

Scientists using high-tech, airplane-based lidar mapping tools have discovered tens of thousands of structures constructed by the Maya: defense works, houses, buildings, industrial-size agricultural fields, even new pyramids. The findings, announced Thursday, are already reshaping long-held views about the size and scope of the Maya civilization.

“This world, which was lost to this jungle, is all of a sudden revealed in the data,” said Albert Yu-Min Lin, an engineer and National Geographic explorer who worked on a television special about the new find. “And what you thought was this massively understood, studied civilization is all of a sudden brand new again,” he told the New York Times

[ Archaeologists unearth a 500-year-old tower of skulls — and another gruesome Aztec mystery ]

Thomas Garrison, an archaeologist at Ithaca College who led the project, called it monumental: “This is a game changer,” he told NPR. It changes “the base level at which we do Maya archaeology.”

The findings were announced by Guatemala’s Fundación Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya (Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation), also known as PACUNAM, which has been working with the lidar system alongside a group of European and U.S. archaeologists.

Continue Reading