Scientists were able to detect the settlements of the ancient Mayan civilization using lidar

(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of scientists has discovered many settlements of the Maya civilization in Northern Guatemala, about two thousand years old. We did this with the help of lidar, or laser radar.

Conducting archaeological research in the tropical regions of America is quite difficult due to the jungle covering the land. So scientists have to resort to non-standard methods.

In particular, over the past few years, they have been using lidar to survey promising areas – a detection system similar to radar, but instead of microwave radio waves, optical waves are used here.

The lasers involved in such a system easily penetrate the dense foliage canopy and reach the surface of the earth, which makes it possible to build three-dimensional maps of the area and find the ruins of the settlements of ancient Americans.

Scientists were able to detect the settlements of the ancient Mayan civilization using lidar
Lidar images of the ancient Mayan pyramids

It was with the help of lidar that an international team of researchers from the United States, France and Guatemala was able to discover almost 1,000 Mayan settlements, covering an area of ​​​​about one and a half thousand square kilometers in the Mirador-Calakmul karst basin.

Many settlements were interconnected by a network of roads – embankments raised above ground level, along which people could safely move even during rains.

The total length of these routes is almost 200 kilometers, so that the inhabitants of almost any settlement could relatively easily reach their neighbors.

Also found in the region are traces of a developed network of canals and water tanks, which probably saved many lives during droughts.

The settlements themselves also looked unusual: the dwellings in them were located quite densely, therefore, apparently, the Mayans lived on the principle of “cramped but not offended.”

This was due to the difficulties of clearing the rainforest, social structure or religious beliefs – it’s hard to say, but so far scientists have not undertaken to estimate the population of these cities: more data is needed from other regions of Mesoamerica.

The researchers found in some settlements playgrounds where the inhabitants of the settlements played ball, as well as large open platforms and pyramids, which could serve as a kind of analogue of a town square in a medieval city – centers of work, recreation and politics.


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