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Ancient Maya city has been discovered under the Guatemala rainforest in now ‘inhospitable’ area

Ancient Maya city has been discovered under the Guatemala rainforest in now ‘inhospitable’ area

Scientists unveiled new discoveries about the ancient Maya, including how they used large reservoir systems to collect water.

Researchers have uncovered a large 2,000-year-old Maya site hidden underneath a Guatemala rainforest.

The incredible discovery has revealed brand new information about the Maya.

Scientists, including those from Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala, found the site by carrying out an aerial survey with Lidar technology. This is when laser light is bounced off surfaces to create a map based on how long it takes the pulses to come back to a receiver.

Lidar has become an increasingly popular method for discovering civilisations lost and encompassed beneath thick tropical rainforests.

The technology was key to finding evidence of lost ancient settlements buried beneath the dense tree canopies in Guatemala’s Mirador-Calakmul Karst Basin.

The Temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza.
Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Research published last month in the journal of Ancient Mesoamerica states the lost ancient Maya city has almost 1,000 urban settlements which are interconnected by 160km (100 miles) of causeways spanning an area of around 1,700 square km (650 square miles).

“This study uses airborne Lidar data to demonstrate how complex societies organised their infrastructure to reflect their socio-economic organisation and political power,” scientists wrote in the study.

Earlier studies suggested that the initial Mesoamerican settlements were probably sparsely population, but these new findings suggest the opposite. The settlements were likely high concentrated with people.

Researchers believe the incredible discovery suggests the Maya put in lots of labour and resources into the area, ‘amassed by a presumably centralised organisation and administration’.

A ‘state-level kingdom’ was established, scientists believe, in an area which would be considered ‘inhospitable for demographic and architectural expansion’ today.

Tikal National Park in Guatemala.
Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

The Lidar investigation revealed that the ancient civilisation may have had ball courts, as previous research suggested they were used for playing native sports.

Large platforms and pyramid constructions were also found in the Lidar survey.

The Maya built big reservoir systems to collect water and a rainwater management area.

The Maya civilisation of the Mesoamerican people developed highly sophisticated writing systems, art, architecture, mathematics, calendar and astronomical systems.

According to the Maya calendar we shouldn't even be around because the ancient Maya had predicted more than 2,200 years ago that the calendar would end on 21 December 2012 which led to people speculating that there would be an apocalypse just over a decade ago.

Temples in Tikal National Park.
PBH / Alamy Stock Photo

While the ancient Maya people couldn’t predict the future, they worked out how to measure time using two complicated calendar systems.

The first system was the Calendar Round system, based on two overlapping cycles – a 260-day sacred year and a 265-day secular year. The clock would reset itself at the end of each cycle.

The second was the Long Count Calendar which had predicted that the world would end 10 years ago.

The Maya believed that the end of one cycle would signal the beginning of another.

The region where the ancient Maya lived now comprises of southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and the western parts of Honduras and El Salvador.

Featured Image Credit: Cambridge University / Ancient Mesoamerica / Giuseppe Cipriani / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Environment, News