Fortresses, farmlands of the Maya emerge from massive LiDAR survey

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Enlarge (credit: 21st Century Fox ) A recent aerial survey revealed thousands of ancient Maya structures previously hidden beneath the dense Guatemalan jungle, including houses, irrigation canals, fortifications, and even a pyramid. More importantly, though, the survey of 2000 square kilometers of northeastern Guatemala provides a bird’s-eye view of the landscape of ancient Maya cities, farms, and highways. That big picture view of the Maya is letting archaeologists ask bigger questions about this still-enigmatic civilization. A sense of mystery still surrounds the Maya, mostly because so much of their once powerful and sophisticated society now lies hidden beneath thick tropical foliage. In recent years, archaeologists have started using lasers to peer beneath the thick canopy of leaves and map the ancient Maya landscape from above. They’re using a technology called “light detection and ranging,” or LiDAR, which maps the height of features on the ground by measuring how long it takes infrared light beamed down from a plane to bounce off those structures and return to the instrument. Using a plane lets surveyors cover a lot of ground in a short time, and one recent survey covered the largest area so far. The results hint that Maya civilization may have been more extensive and more densely populated than archaeologists realized. The survey, funded by the nonprofit Pacunam foundation, covered 2000 square kilometers of northeastern Guatemala in 2016. Archaeologists have been poring over the data since early 2017, and they say they’ve discovered over 60,000 new structures, from irrigation canals and highways to fortresses and pyramids. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Fortresses, farmlands of the Maya emerge from massive LiDAR survey

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