A team of archaeologists from the United States, Guatemala and France has found a huge Mayan city that flourished around 2,000 years ago and remained hidden in the jungle for millennia.
Researchers discovered the huge colony previously unknownby carrying out LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) studies in Mirador-Calakmul karst basin jungle (MCKB) from northern Guatemala.
Technology LiDAR, is similar to radar but emits pulses of light instead of radio waves. This allows scientists to easily see solid structures under the canopy of trees and other types of vegetation.
LiDAR has long proven to be an effective tool for locating testimony of lost civilizations as it can help identify signs of old buildings, roads and earthworks under trees and undergrowth.
Now they’ve been discovered 775 colonies in the basin, as well as 417 sites that formed ancient cities, causeways and villages, covering an approximate area of 1,685 square kilometers.
LiDAR image of structures at the ancient Maya site discovered in Guatemala. Credit: Ancient Mesoamerica
According to scientists, most of the constructions have been dated to the periods Middle and Late Preclassic (1000 BC-150 AD).
Monumental architecture and densely populated areas
Inside the settlements, the team found evidence of big platforms and pyramids, -one of them over 70 meters-, which may have served as centralized centers for work, politics and commerce. As well as evidence of ball fields for recreation.
Also, the researchers found canals to transport water, reservoirs, dams, terraces, fields and more than 177 km of roadwaysindicating the existence of a six-level settlement hierarchy.
Artist’s reconstruction showing what the ancient Mayan city located would have been like. Credit: REUTERS.
Interestingly, the colonies were densely populated, which contradicts some theories precedents which suggested that the peoples of that time lived in sparsely populated areas.
The monumental ceremonial and residential architecture found reflects the structures of social organization, experts explained.
The size and scale of the complexes suggest a system of government capable of maintaining political and ideological homogeneity, and of organizing “thousands of workers and specialists, ranging from lime producers, mortar specialists and quarries , lithic technicians, architects, etc. , agricultural supply and logistics specialists, and law enforcement officials.
During the discovery of the Maya settlements, remains of platforms and pyramids were found. Credit: Hansel et al.
This study is of great importance and utility in demonstrating how ancient societies organized their infrastructures to reflect their socio-economic organization and political power.
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Archaeologists hope that future research in the area will continue to uncover the secrets of this ancient civilization and perhaps uncover new settlements that have remained hidden for many centuries.
The finding was published in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica.
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