Today’s “Planet Earth Report” –“Astounding!” New Discovery Reveals Mayan Civilization Much Vaster Than Known (WATCH Video)




“This world, which was lost to this jungle, is all of a sudden revealed in the data,” said Albert Yu-Min Lin, an engineer and National Geographic explorer who worked on a television special about the new find, told the New York Times. “And what you thought was this massively understood, studied civilization is all of a sudden brand new again.”

“Most people had been comfortable with population estimates of around 5 million,” said Estrada-Belli, who directs a multidisciplinary archaeological project at Holmul, Guatemala. “With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there — including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable.”

This digital 3-D image above provided by Guatemala's Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation, PACUNAM, shows a depiction of the Mayan archaeological site at Tikal in Guatemala created using lidar aerial mapping technology.
Archaeologists have spent more than a century traipsing through the Guatemalan jungle, Indiana Jones-style, searching through dense vegetation to learn what they could about the Mayan civilization that was one of the dominant societies in Mesoamerica for centuries, reports The Washington Post.

But the latest discovery — one that archaeologists are calling a “game changer” — didn't even require a can of bug spray.




Scientists using high-tech, airplane-based lidar mapping tools have discovered tens of thousands of structures constructed by the Mayans: defense works, houses, buildings, industrial-sized agricultural fields, even new pyramids. The findings, announced Thursday, are already reshaping long-held views about the size and scope of Mayan civilization.

Thomas Garrison, an archaeologist at Ithaca College who led the project, called it monumental: “This is a game changer,” he told NPR. It changes “the base level at which we do Maya archaeology. In this the jungle, which has hindered us in our discovery efforts for so long, has actually worked as this great preservative tool of the impact the culture had across the landscape,” Garrison said.

The findings were announced by Guatemala's Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation, which has been working with a group of European and U.S. archaeologists in employing the lidar system.

The lidar system fires rapid pulses of laser light at surfaces — sometimes as many as 150,000 pulses per second — and measures how long it takes that light to return to sophisticated measuring equipment.

Doing that over and over again lets scientists create a topographical map of sorts. Computer modeling allows the researchers to virtually strip away half a million acres of jungle that has grown over the ruins. What's left is a surprisingly clear picture of how a tenth-century Mayan would see the landscape.

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