69.8 F
Mérida
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
###

Ancient Mayan megalopolis uncovered; has 60,000 structures

Latest headlines

2 Cuban migrants die in shipwreck off Yucatán coast

Unofficial reports claim that Mexican authorities helped 19 people to disembark the badly damaged ship.

Angels: What makes Adele Aguirre’s new art exhibit at SoHo Galleries so moving

Adele Aguirre's "Angels" exhibit at SoHo Galleries responds to a personal crisis, but will be cathartic to everyone suffering loss. ...

Frustrated animal rights activists blockade Mérida shelter

The protestors set up camp outside of the facility and took to laying on mats and pieces of cardboard to demonstrate their commitment to settling the issue without violence.

Property taxes in Mérida to increase in 2022

Property taxes across Mérida are about to see a considerable increase. 
Yucatán Magazine
Sign up to get our top headlines delivered to your inbox twice a week.

Laser technology known as LiDAR digitally removes the forest canopy to reveal ancient ruins, showing that Maya cities such as Tikal were much larger than ground-based research had suggested. Courtesy Wild Blue Media/National Geographic


Archaeologists in Guatemala have uncovered an unprecedented network of 60,000 ancient Mayan features such as palaces and elevated highways, according to an exclusive report by National Geographic.

The megalopolis suggests that we’ve been vastly underestimating the size and sophistication of the Mayan civilization at the height of its power 1,200 years ago.

Researchers owe the breakthrough to the cutting-edge remote sensing method Light Detection and Ranging, better known as LiDAR.

These particular images covered a region of more than 800 square miles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve of northern Guatemala. All together, it’s the largest LiDAR dataset ever to be used in archaeological research, according to National Geographic.

“The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who specializes in applying technology like LiDAR, told National Geographic.

LiDAR allowed the archaeologists to digitally erase the jungle’s top canopy layer from aerial images, essentially Photoshopping them out. Without the canopy in the way, the massive pre-Colombian civilization was revealed for the first time in centuries.

What the researchers saw upends assumptions about pre-Columbian life.

“We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilizations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilizations go to die,” said Tulane University archaeologist Marcello Canuto, also a National Geographic Explorer. “But with the new LiDAR-based evidence from Central America…we now have to consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and made their way outward from there.”

The Mayan culture was at its peak from roughly 250 A.D. to 900 A.D., according to the MesoAmerican Research Center. During that era, known as the Classic period, the civilization was twice the size of medieval England — and much more densely populated than previous researchers had suspected, according to National Geographic.

In the past, when still limited to ground-based study, archaeologists had believed the Mayan civilization in Central America to be diffuse and loosely connected. But the megalopolis suggests that it was actually more comparable to civilizations of ancient Greece or China. The LiDAR scans showed densely packed urban centers, sophisticated irrigation systems and advanced engineering achievements like highways that had been raised off the ground so they could still be used during the rainy season.

“LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy,” Francisco Estrada-Belli, also a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer, told National Geographic. “We’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.”

Source: Newsweek

More photos at National Geographic

- Advertisement -

Subscriptions make great gifts

More articles

Cacaxtla and the mystery of its spectacular Maya murals

The Cacaxtla-Xochitécatl archaeological site is one of the most interesting and unique in all of Mexico. Aside from its massive structures and breathtakingly beautiful vistas, this ancient city in Central Mexico boasts a rather out-of-place feature — Maya murals. 

Mexico skeptical over new travel restrictions

Restricting travel or closing borders is of little use in response to the emergence of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, said Mexico's...

CFE to invest billions to improve Yucatán’s energy infrastructure

Large CFE facility on Mérida’s Periferico. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht The CFE announced that it will...

What to find in a Yucatecan Christmas market

Located right in front of the high school Centro Universitario Montejo, the market hosts slow-food vendors on the weekends and maintains its crafts and decor market all throughout the week.

Feminists unveil a monument to protest violence against women

Feminist protestors unveiled a monument in Mérida’s Remate at the foot of the Paseo de Montejo to protest ongoing violence against women. 

Mérida to hold a week-long tango festival, starting tonight

Mérida's international tango festival is set to return for a full calendar week starting Nov. 25.

Adventurous pup illegally climbs Yucatán’s most famous landmark at Chichén Itzá

Once again, a clandestine visitor has broken the rules at Chichén Itzá by climbing Kukulcán’s famed pyramid. 

Mérida’s railway museum goes full steam ahead

One of the most under-visited attractions in Mérida is the Museo de Ferrocarriles de Yucatán, Yucatán’s Railway Museum.

Feel brave enough to eat an eyeball taco? Mérida’s taco festival has you covered

Taco connoisseurs are prepreparing to host Mérida's Festival del Taco next weekend. 

A giant hammock has suddenly appeared in the Centro, but why?

The sudden appearance of a giant hammock in downtown Mérida is drawing eyes.