Home Science Humans Study Confirms the Massive Scale of the Lowland Maya Civilization

Study Confirms the Massive Scale of the Lowland Maya Civilization

Tulane University researchers, documenting the discovery of dozens of ancient cities in northern Guatemala through the use of jungle-penetrating Lidar (light detection and ranging) technology, have published their results in the prestigious journal Science. The article includes the work of Marcello Canuto, director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane, and Francisco Estrada-Belli, a research assistant professor at Tulane and director of the Holmul Archaeological Project since 2000.

They worked with assistant professor of anthropology Thomas Garrison of Ithaca College, as well as other scholars, to make their discoveries in the Petén forest of Guatemala. A consortium of 18 scholars from U.S., Europe, and Guatemalan institutions, including the Ministry of Culture and Sports, were enabled by the Fundación PACUNAM (Mayan Heritage and Nature Foundation) to analyze lidar data covering over 2,100 square kilometers of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Canuto said:

The PACUNAM LiDAR INITIATIVE (PLI) is the largest single lidar survey in the history of Mesoamerican archaeology. The collaborative scientific effort has provided fine-grained quantitative data of unprecedented scope to refine long-standing debates regarding the nature of ancient lowland Maya urbanism. Specifically, the key identifications of this study are:

•    61,480 ancient structures in the survey region, resulting in an estimated population of 7 to 11 million at the height of the Late Classic period (650-800 CE). The structures include isolated houses, large palaces, ceremonial centers, and pyramids.

•    362 square kilometers of terraces or otherwise modified agricultural terrain and another 952 square kilometers of viable farmland, demonstrating a landscape heavily modified for the intensive agriculture necessary to sustainably support massive populations for many centuries.

•    106 square kilometers of causeways within and between urban centers and numerous, sizeable defensive earthworks. This substantial infrastructure investment highlights the interconnectivity of cities and hinterlands, as well as the scale of Maya warfare.

Both Canuto and Estrada-Belli noted that discoveries were made in a matter of minutes, compared to what would have taken years of fieldwork without the LiDAR technology. Estrada-Belli said:

https://youtu.be/ceJYtrNnYPk

Provided by: Tulane University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!     

Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

Most Popular

US Commerce Department Bans Investments in Chinese Military-Backed Companies

On Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, the Trump administration issued an executive order barring investments in private companies with close ties to Chinese military, intelligence,...

4 Tips on How to Teach Kids Generosity During the Holidays

The Christmas holiday season is upon us and it will soon be time for celebrations, gift-giving, and other happy occasions. For many parents, this...

A Chinese Entrepreneur Predicts His Tragic Ending

In 1985, Sun Dawu, who has become a Chinese entrepreneur, and his wife started their business with a thousand chickens and 50 pigs. Ten...

Researchers Find Connection Between Household Chemicals and Gut Microbiome

A team of researchers for the first time has found a correlation between the levels of bacteria and fungi, the gut microbiome, in the...