International

Massive Mayan ruins found in Guatemala

What lies beneath: Digital image shows a depiction of the Mayan archaeological site at Tikal in Guatemala.

What lies beneath: Digital image shows a depiction of the Mayan archaeological site at Tikal in Guatemala.   | Photo Credit: AP/PACUNAM

10 million people could have lived there, say researchers

Researchers using a high-tech aerial mapping technique have found tens of thousands of previously undetected Mayan houses, buildings, defence works and pyramids in the dense jungle of Guatemala’s Peten region, suggesting that millions more people lived there than previously thought.

The discoveries, which included industrial-sized agricultural fields and irrigation canals, were announced by an alliance of U.S., European and Guatemalan archaeologists working with Guatemala’s Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation.

The study estimates that roughly 10 million people may have lived within the Maya Lowlands, meaning that kind of massive food production might have been needed. “That is two to three times more [inhabitants] than people were saying there were,” said Marcello A. Canuto, a professor of Anthropology at Tulane University.

Researchers used a mapping technique called LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection And Ranging. It bounces pulsed laser light off the ground, revealing contours hidden by dense foliage.

The images revealed that the Mayans altered the landscape in a much broader way than previously thought; in some areas, 95% of available land was cultivated.

Intensive agriculture

“Their agriculture is much more intensive and therefore sustainable than we thought, and they were cultivating every inch of the land,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a research assistant professor at Tulane University, noting that the ancient Mayas partly drained swampy areas that haven’t been considered worth farming since. And the extensive defensive fences, ditch-and-rampart systems and irrigation canals suggest a highly organized workforce.

“There’s state involvement here, because we see large canals being dug that are re-directing natural water flows,” said Thomas Garrison, assistant professor of Anthropology at Ithaca College in New York. The mapping detected about 60,000 individual structures, including four major Mayan ceremonial centres with plazas and pyramids.

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 2:19:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/massive-mayan-ruins-found-in-guatemala/article22645692.ece

Next Story