You may know the Ancient Maya people for their hieroglyphic script and as those who sacrificed their peoples for the gods, but you may not know how massive their civilization actually was. No one knew.
Until now, researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Maya ruins, including houses, highways, palaces, and other human-made features, in a major archaeological breakthrough that increases their Mayan population estimate from two million to 20 million inhabitants during the Meso-American civilization’s peak.
All thanks to a new technology called LiDAR (short for Light Detection and Ranging) which is revolutionizing archaeology and rewriting Mayan history. This new laser technology digitally removes the forest canopy by emitting pulsing lasers to the earth’s floor and measuring the distance differences in laser return times to make digital 3-D representations. Amazing!
LiDAR has mapped more than 800 square miles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of Guatemala, producing the largest LiDAR data set ever obtained for archaeological research, and resulting in the discovery of raised highways connecting city centers. As well as, intricate water systems perhaps to support feeding masses of workers who were ordered by the Snake Kings to reshape the landscape.
This survey is the first phase of the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative, a three-year project that will map more than 5,000 square miles (14,000 square kilometers) of Guatemala’s lowlands.