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Mayan Metropolis Discovered in Guatemalan Rainforest

Using topographic Lidar technology PACUNAM, has discovered an ancient Mayan metropolis under 810 square miles of Guatemalan rain forest. It includes pyramids, houses, causeways, and defensive fortifications. The cities discovery increases the estimated size of the Mayan population by several orders of magnitude

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The Peten jungle region of Guetemala, bordering Mexico and Belize is now currently home to 366 000 people.  A shadow in the wake of the massive 15 million Mayans now estimated to have lived in the ancient “Megatropolis” between 250-900 AD. With this new discovery – arguably the greatest one in the last 150 years it now possible that Mayans were more advanced then Greece or China 1500 years ago

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LIDAR technology is a new type of airborne imaging technique that uses infrared lasers to scan the surface of the Earth to build a 3 dimensional hologram of the surrounding terrain. Unlike previous techniques it can pierce through entire canopies and underbrush to reveal the underlying mineral structure of jungle ecosystems.

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Once the beams of light are reflected back to mechanical sensors the information is cross referenced with GPS coordinates, Scan Angles, Inertial Measurement systems and calibration data to come up with a holistic depiction of the area in reference to the air craft as it moves through the sky. This “point cloud” serves as the foundation for modelling digital elevation, canopys, building models, and contours.

The discovery made in the Peten jungle region of Guatemala is part of a 3 year long initiative to scan 5000 square kilometres.

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One of the most impressive discoveries in Peten is an elaborate system of agriculture involving complex irrigation and terracing systems. As well the use of what appear to be highways connecting urban centres to quarries. These techniques may have played a great role in supporting such a large population – possibly the largest in the world at the time without the destructive slash and burn techniques we see in use today.

In the future Scientists want to figure out what the mayans grew in these irrigated fields and how hey fertilised the inhospitable soil around Holmul an archaeological site located in the north eastern region of the Peten Basin

According to what we know it is likely the Mayan civilization collapsed due to a disruption in their continents precipitation cycle between 800 and 1000 ad. No more than two tropical cyclone occurred in those two centuries compared to the regular 6 every hundred years. Some researchers have suggested that deforestation in favor of agricultural crops may have contributed to natural droughts by removing a large chunk of transpiration via trees from the water cycle.

Mayan Deforestation and Drought

The amount of forestation (pictured below) at the time of collapse was small due to their extensive agricultural network (white)

As far as further information goes it appears that National Geographic has exclusive rights to the site and they are currently filming a documentary called “Lost treasures of the Mayan Snake Kings”

In the trailer a type of Augmented Reality app featured on the iPad is used to create a virtual “treasure map” of ruins so engineer and NatGeo explorer Albert Lynn can look through the camera to locate a foliage covered pyramid. The documentary airs April 8th.

 

 

 

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