Archeology is changing rapidly with the development of advanced technologies. From now on, new analysis tools support specialists in prospecting work in the field. LiDAR (Light detection and area adjustment) is the perfect example. Originally developed for military purposes, this laser remote sensing makes it possible to identify remains that are difficult to detect without them because over time they have been camouflaged by vegetation, water and soil. Using this method, geologists have unearthed a vast Maya site that stretches nearly 1,700 square kilometers north of the Maya Guatemala, hidden under the rainforest. Their research was published in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica on December 5, 2022. But other recent studies, conducted in Mexico In particular, report on discoveries made possible thanks to LiDAR.
In just 45 minutes of flight, the LiDAR had collected the same amount of data that would have taken decades by hand – archaeologist Chris Fisher in his TEDx”Let’s scan the planet with a LiDAR“.
The remains of thousands of Mayan settlements hidden under vegetation
The first discoveries result from an aerial survey. In fact, laser sensors are used in short pulses from the air. The time it takes pushes Light reflected from the surface and returning to the instrument is measured and converted to a graph using a GPS. LiDAR makes it possible to create a three-dimensional map of a place by precisely identifying the “anomalies” of a place. A particularly effective technology for areas such as tropical forests where visibility is limited as lasers can penetrate dense treetops.
To do this, the researchers “scanned” the karst basin around the ancient cities of El Mirador and Calakmul in Guatemala. They eventually identified over 1,000 settlements there from the Middle and Late Preclassic period (between ca. Mayans. The remains of more than 400 towns or villages, several large platforms, pyramids, canals and reservoirs have been discovered, the scientists say in their study. According to co-author Ross Ensley, a geologist at the Institute for Geological Survey of the Maya Lowlands in Houston, USA, interviewed by LiveSciencethe places for this formed a “Goldenilocks zone”. ancient civilization:
The Mayans [s’y] installed because it had the right mix […] The highlands provided a source of limestone, their main building material, and dry land on which to live. The lowlands, mostly seasonal swamps or bajosSpace for wetland farming as well as organically rich soil for use in terrace farming.
Structures have been unveiled in Mexico, remnants of an ancient calendar
Researchers hope the LiDAR will help them explore more parts of Guatemala that have remained a mystery for centuries. Further north in Mexico, another research team is also trying to unravel the mysteries of the Atlantic Gulf using this technology. They have already observed from the sky the remains of 415 ceremonial complexes built by Mesoamerican societies, the Olmec or the Maya, they say in an article in the journal scientific advances published January 6, 2023. Additionally, their position, as taught by the tool, shows that they were aligned in some way, suggesting to experts that they may have been used as calendars along the Gulf Coast in ancient times.
Previous studies had already shown on the basis of written evidence of fresco fragments, that the peoples living in Mesoamerica as early as 300 or 200 BC had developed a 260-day calendar. But this new discovery shows that such a system could have been used thousands of years earlier with large structures. Analysis of the recently identified, dated between 1,100 B.C. J.-C. If you have such a schedule, consider the authors of the report in a communicates, would have allowed ancient peoples to plan their rituals and coordinate their agricultural activities. Some modern Maya communities would still use a 260-day timeline, they explain elsewhere.