Lost Cities, Ancient Structures of Maya Civilization Discovered Deep in the Guatemalan Jungle

Archaeologists have harnessed sophisticated technology to reveal lost cities and thousands of ancient structures deep in the Guatemalan jungle, confirming that the Maya civilization was much larger than previously thought.

Experts used remote surveying technology to see through the thick canopy of forest, revealing more than 60,000 structures in a sprawling network of cities, farms, highways and fortifications. The extent of ancient Maya agriculture also stunned archaeologists, who said that the civilization produced food “on an almost industrial scale.”

An international team of scientists and archaeologists took part in the PACUNAM LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) initiative, surveying more than 772 square miles of the Guatemalan jungle by plane. Their findings have been revealed in digital maps and an augmented reality app.

LiDAR uses a laser to measure distances to the Earth’s surface and can prove extremely valuable to study what is hidden in heavily forested areas. LiDAR is also used extensively in other applications, including autonomous cars where it allows vehicles to have a continuous 360 degrees view.

The incredible project will be shown on “Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings,” which airs on National Geographic on Feb. 6.

“It’s like a magic trick,” says one of the archaeologists leading the project, Tom Garrison, in the documentary. “The survey is the most important development in Maya archaeology in 100 years.”

The study indicates that previous estimates that placed the population in the ancient Maya lowlands at between 1 million and 2 million need to be completely rethought. Based on the extensive survey, experts now think that up to 20 million people were living in the region.

The Maya lowlands spanned Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, Guatemala and Belize. From its heart in what is now Guatemala, the Maya empire reached the peak of its power in the sixth century A.D., according to History.com, although most of the civilization’s cities were abandoned around 900 A.D.

Archaeologists involved in the PACUNAM LiDAR project are also examining how an obscure royal dynasty known as the Snake Kings came to dominate the ancient Mayan world. The latest evidence suggests that the dynasty’s power stretched from Mexico and Belize into Guatemala. They conquered the great Maya city of Tikal in 562 A.D.

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SOURCE: Fox News, James Rogers