Thousands of structures making up several ancient Mayan cities have just been uncovered after laying hidden for centuries.
The discovery of the structures, including pyramids, palaces and causeways, under a jungle has changed everything we thought we knew about the Mayan civilisation.
They have been revealed following an investigation by a team of international archaeologists using ground-penetrating laser technology in what’s been hailed as a “major breakthrough”.
The find allowed the researchers to map the outlines of what they describe as dozens of newly discovered Maya cities hidden under thick jungle foliage.
They have been found centuries after they were abandoned by their original inhabitants, according to a statement issued on Thursday by Guatemala’s PACUNAM foundation.
A huge system of ruins far more complex than what has widely been believed by Maya specialists was found, including highways connecting cities and quarries, and complex irrigation and terracing systems supporting masses of workers.
Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who took part in the project, told news.com.au : “The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” said .
The ancient Maya civilization was one of the most advanced to arise in Mesoamerica, marked by sophisticated mathematics and engineering that allowed it to spread throughout present-day Central America and southern Mexico.
The research used so-called LIDAR technology that utilizes light from lasers to construct a detailed survey of buried structures.
“The fortified structures and large causeways reveal modifications to the natural landscape made by the Maya on a previously unimaginable scale,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli of Tulane University.
The team of archaeologists surveyed more than 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) of the Peten jungle and even revealed a pyramid in the heart of the ancient Maya city of Tikal, a major tourist destination in northeastern Guatemala.
The pyramid measures nearly 100 feet (30 meters) tall and was previously thought to be a small mountain.
The earliest Maya settlements were constructed around 1,000 B.C., and most major Maya cities collapsed by 900 A.D. The cause of the collapse remains the focus of intense academic debate.