Maya cities-network discovered in Peten, near Tikal, Guatemala

 Sprawling Maya network discovered under Guatemala jungle
(extracts from

Researchers have found more than 60,000 hidden Maya ruins in Guatemala in a major archaeological breakthrough.

Laser technology (called Lidar "light detection and ranging") was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications. (Most notable is) a fortification wall running for kilometers.

The landscape, near already-known Maya cities, is thought to have been home to millions more people than other research had previously thought. The researchers mapped over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten. Results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilisation more akin to sophisticated cultures like ancient Greece or China.


 Hidden insights

Maya civilisation, at its peak some 1,500 years ago, covered an area about twice the size of medieval England, with an estimated population of around five million.
"With this new data it's no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there," said Mr Estrada-Belli, "including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable."
Most of the 60,000 newly identified structures are thought to be stone platforms that would have supported the average pole-and-thatch Maya home. The archaeologists were struck by the "incredible defensive features", which included walls, fortresses and moots. One of the hidden finds is a seven-storey pyramid so covered in vegetation that it practically melts into the jungle. Another discovery that surprised archaeologists was the complex network of causeways linking all the Maya cities in the area. The raised highways, allowing easy passage even during rainy seasons, were wide enough to suggest they were heavily trafficked and used for trade.
The Lidar survey was the first part of a three-year project led by a Guatemalan organisation that promotes cultural heritage preservation. It will eventually map more than 5,000 sq miles (14,000 sq km) of Guatemala's lowlands.
Image copyright Wild Blue Media/Channel 4 Image caption (BBC)

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