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Sprawling Mayan network discovered under Guatemala jungle

February 2, 2018 3:08 pm

Researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Mayan ruins in Guatemala in a major archaeological breakthrough.

Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications.

The landscape, near already-known Mayan cities, is thought to have been home to millions more Mayans than other researchers had previously suggested.

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The researchers mapped over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten.

Archaeologists believe the cutting-edge technology will change the way the world will see Mayans’ ancient civilisation.

“I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology,” said Stephen Houston, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Brown University.

Mr Houston told the BBC that after decades of work in the archaeological field, he found the magnitude of the recent survey “breathtaking”. He added, “I know it sounds hyperbolic but when I saw the [Lidar] imagery, it did bring tears to my eyes.”

Results from the research using Lidar technology, which is short for “light detection and ranging”, suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilisation more akin to sophisticated cultures like ancient Greece or China.

“Everything is turned on its head,” Ithaca College archaeologist Thomas Garrison told the BBC.

He believes the scale and population density has been “grossly underestimated and could in fact be three or four times greater than previously thought”.

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