Over 60,000 Puzzling Maya Structures Discovered in Guatemala

An aerial examination of northern Guatemala has put in an appearance over 60,000 new Maya structures. The formations consist pyramids, roads, house bases and protective fortifications.

This discovery was a milestone for the scientists to dig and analyze the new sites. According to Tom Garrison, an archaeologist who concentrates on the Maya culture, the discoveries could also improve the information we have of ancient Maya that once lived in the area.

Much more ancient Maya existed on that location than the people living today. According to Garrison, they managed to do it without a devastating slash-and-burn agriculture that is hurting the jungle in the contemporary era.

The discovery of an ancient large Maya population indicates there are ways and means of maintaining people in the area without damaging the forest.

The recent survey used a technology named lidar or “light detection and ranging”. It operates by transmitting laser vibrations at the ground.

In this case, it does the action through an airplane, weighing the wavelengths as they move back to produce a detailed 3D image of the things down on the ground.

In the dense forests of Maya’s valleys in Guatemala, it’s not hard to walk right beside an archaeological knoll and not notice a thing.

Surveys in Guatemala unveiled over 60,000 Maya structures, including pyramids, fortification walls and house foundations.

Lidar draws the lay of the land with such an accuracy that orthogonal objects, like roads and house bases just stick out.

Garrison’s experience verifies this statement. He and his team have been excavating a Maya site called El Zotz in northern Guatemala. The lidar analysis unveiled a 30-foot-long fortification wall the team has never noticed before.

“Maybe, eventually, we would have gotten to this hilltop where this fortress is, but I was within about 150 feet [46 m] of it in 2010 and didn’t see anything,” he said.

He furthermore visited the wall in June. Right now, he is waiting for funding money to excavate the place.

The discovery of the Maya structures implies that the Maya warfare was not small and periodic but rather serious.

This wasn’t the first time somebody used the lidar. Back in 1985, scientists employed in Costa Rica. However, it wasn’t until 2009, when in a research in Belize experts found the region once the Maya occupied.

“Lidar is to the 21st century what radiocarbon dating was to archaeology in the last century,” said Payson Sheets, who led the Costa Rica excavation.

Aerial reviews examined 810 square miles over 10 different regions of northern Guatemala. Some of the areas had been outlined by hand and mostly unexplored.

They found over 60,000 architectural Maya structures. Most of them, according to Garrison, are likely stone platforms that supported the homes of Maya people. However, the studies also revealed objects that are probably pyramids, roads and defense blocks.

A National Geographic show, “Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings,” will concentrate on some of these discoveries, including a seven-story pyramid sprawling with vegetation The documentary premieres Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST.

One of the fascinating findings on the lidar is the number of the roads Maya built. They didn’t use weight beasts, thus these roads probably didn’t serve as pathways for wagons. Hence, they must have served as causeways or platforms for cavalcades.

Also compelling were the lidar’s empty spots. These were the locations the Maya chose not live in.

“It’s going to change our views of the population and just on how the Maya lived on that landscape.”

“By having this more accurate picture of what is there, we can start to talk about community organization, agricultural systems land use, roadways and communication,” said Stuart.