Pyramids peek above the canopy of the Guatemalan jungle in Central America, but the roots of the ruins run a lot deeper than it looks.
A LIDAR (“light” and “radar”) survey of the area has revealed 60,000 previously unknown structures – suggesting a vast megalopolis that was home to millions more people than previously thought.
Mapping a 2,100 square kilometre (800 square mile) area of jungle around the Lost World city of Tikal – a popular tourist destination – a team of researchers found palaces, bridges, fortifications, dwellings, and other human-made features that have been lost for centuries.
The city is enormous – three to four times larger than previously thought.
“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 told National Geographic.
“The ambition and the impact of this project is just incredible,” said Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a University of Calgary archaeologist and Maya specialist who was not associated with the PACUNAM survey. “After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites. More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilization as the ancient Maya saw it.”
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