New Light and Ranging Technique Reveals Thousands of New Mayan Structures


Advances in surveying technology have allowed researchers to uncover what are believed to be the remains of large Mayan cities beneath the jungles of Guatemala.  Sixty thousand previously undiscovered structures have discovered according to scientists.

By attaching sensors to the underside of an airplane, scientists have been able to map vast landscapes by emitting pulses of laser light and measuring the time taken for them to return.  The data measured can reveal contours on the ground guiding researchers toward man-made structures beneath the tree lines.

The technique is known as light detection and ranging, or Lidar.  It is the same technology found in self-driving cars, and it allows archeologists to see through dense forest and to survey in greater detail, and for greater range.

The technology has revealed evidence of Mayan agriculture, irrigation, defensive fortifications and even highways that point to previously unrealized interconnectivity between villages.  Researchers now believe as many as 10 million Mayans may have lived in what is present-day Guatemala and Mexico, a population many times larger than previously thought.

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