Laser Technology Uncovers the Surprising Size and Density of Hidden Mayan Cities

A new National Geographic documentary is set to reveal a newly discovered Mayan “Megalopolis” in what is being called a “major breakthrough” in Mayan history. Over 60,000 homes, infrastructure systems, and man-made features that were once hidden underneath the dense jungles of Guatemala are now being revealed to the world, painting a picture of ancient cities that were both much larger and much denser than previously thought.

via National Geographic

A revolutionary technology called LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), helped researchers find this sprawling civilization by digitally removing the tree canopies from aerial views of northern Guatemala. According to National Geographic, the results of this discovery suggest that not only is this civilization much larger than once presumed, but that early Central American cultures were “more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city-states that ground-based research had long suggested.”

In addition to the undiscovered residences, the LiDAR images show lifted highways that connected urban centers, settlement patterns, and complex irrigation systems. Marcello Canuto, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer said that even though the ancient Maya never used the wheel or beasts of burden, “this was a civilization that was literally moving mountains.”

Among the most surprising findings was the ubiquity of defensive walls, ramparts, terraces, and fortresses. This survey is the first of many that will occur over the next three years as part of a research initiative that will eventually locate more than 5,000 square miles of Guatemala’s lowlands.

Check out the trailer for “Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings” below. The full documentary special airs tonight, Tuesday, February 6 at 9 pm ET on National Geographic.

Via National Geographic.

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