Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Scientists uncover tens of thousands of ancient Mayan structures that could change our understanding of ancient civilisation

New findings uncover the mysterious lives of millions of people

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 27 September 2018 23:33 BST
Comments
Guatemalan natives play "Chajchaay", an ancient Mayan ball game, at the central square of Aguilares, 36 km north of San Salvador, El Salvador on July 8, 2016
Guatemalan natives play "Chajchaay", an ancient Mayan ball game, at the central square of Aguilares, 36 km north of San Salvador, El Salvador on July 8, 2016 (MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images)

Scientists have uncovered tens of thousands of Mayan structures, potentially changing our understanding of the ancient civilisation.

The newly found evidence gives an insight into the lives of millions of people that have remained largely mysterious until today.

It was discovered using high-tech Lidar technology, which uses pulses of laser light to map land cover and topography in 3-D. That land is usually covered in dense woodland, making surveys of the area difficult.

The new research, according to the scientists behind it, gives an understanding of the area with "unprecedented scope" that "compels" a re-evaluation of our understanding of Mayan culture.

The data seems to suggest, for instance, that more than 11 million people lived throughout the Maya Lowlands during the Late Classic Period, nearly 3,000 years ago. And it gives some clue about how they lived.

That huge number of people would need some degree of agricultural intensification to be able to sustain themselves. The data seems to show that the wetlands throughout the region were heavily modified for agricultural use.

And the new findings show that there was a large-scale network of roads that connected cities and towns that were distant from each other. Some of those roadways were heavily fortified, the authors found to their surprise.

That substantial investment shows not only how connected Mayan cities were, but also the scale of Mayan warfare.

The new research, which was funded by the Guatemalan government, is published in Science.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in