A huge Mayan city was found in the jungle in Guatemala. This discovery, done with a modern laser tool from a plane, changes in many ways our way of seeing this amazing pre-Columbian civilization. Know all the details.
The shocking discovery
The Guatemalan jungle hides a shocking secret: a giant network of houses, roads, defensive fortifications and even a new seven-story pyramid. As investigators point out, these are the remains of a huge hidden Mayan city, of which, until now, we had no knowledge.
With so many roads joining the structures, scientists have begun to ask many questions. At first, the population of civilization could be up to two or three times larger than we thought. And the existence of such intercommunication between cities would be a sign that trade was very important to them.
On the other hand, there are the defensive walls and forts. This discovery would indicate that "war was not only happening towards the end of civilization." That is, they would have been "large-scale and systematic" clashes, even "for many years," Tom Garrison, an archaeologist specializing in Maya culture, told National Geographic.
This new discovery was made with an innovative technology called LIDAR. This new tool is like a laser that takes photos of the jungle ignoring the trees and the rest of the vegetation. It is a good way to know if there are really hidden structures in it.
The results obtained by LIDAR
Speaking about the discovery made with LIDAR, Garrison told Live Science magazine a curious detail: "Maybe, eventually, we would have gotten to this hilltop where this fortress is, but I was within about 150 feet [46 m] of it in 2010 and didn't see anything."
In summary, the tool emits lasers from an airplane. The laser bounces off the ground, measuring wavelengths and creating a map of the different materials found and possible structures in the area.
For scientists, this new tool is undoubtedly very important. “LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy," Francisco Estrada-Belli, an archaeologist at Tulane University, told National Geographic.
Along the same lines, Lisa Lucero, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois, also told Live Science that "LIDAR is magical." Meanwhile, David Stuart, of the University of Texas at Austin, pointed out that this tool studies the area with such precision that rectangular features such as roads, foundations, squares or other structures simply show up.
The importance of the discovery
In this case, the discovery is very important, beyond knowing the history of civilization. “Most people had been comfortable with population estimates of around 5 million,” says Estrada-Belli.
“With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there—including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable," she added.
On the other hand, as noted before, the discovery puts in a new perspective the role of trade and warlike confrontations. The war could have been systematic and have lasted for many years. For its part, a trade would have been of vital importance among cities.
For scientists, these new discoveries bring Central American civilizations closer to other sophisticated cultures such as the ancient civilizations of Greece or China.
If that were not enough, the scientists say that not all the data have been studied yet, what other secrets of the Mayan culture will be hidden in the Guatemalan jungle?
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