GUATEMALA: A recent high-tech study has uncovered nearly 1,000 ancient Maya settlements, including 417 that were previously unknown. These were hidden for centuries by the dense jungles of northern Guatemala and southern Mexico.
These settlements were connected by what may have been the world’s first highway network.
According to a statement released on Monday by a group from Guatemala’s FARES anthropological research institution, which is in charge of the so-called LiDAR studies, it is the most recent finding of around 3,000-year-old Maya centres and associated infrastructure.
The results were first released in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica last month.
The majority of the recently discovered structures were all constructed hundreds of years before the largest Maya city-states appeared, bringing significant advances in mathematics and writing.
LiDAR technology employs aircraft to fire light pulses into the deep forest. This helps researchers trace ancient structures below by removing foliage.
The first-ever comprehensive network of stone “highways” or “super-highways” existed in the ancient world, which is one of the features uncovered in the most recent investigation, according to the researchers.
So far, 177 kilometres of wide roads have been made public, some of which are up to 16 feet above the ground and around 40 metres wide.
In the Cuenca Karstica Mirador-Calakmul investigation, which spans from the Peten jungle in northern Guatemala to Campeche state in southern Mexico, pyramids, ball courts, and extensive water infrastructure, such as reservoirs, dams, and irrigation canals, have also been found.
Lead researcher Richard Hansen remarked, “It demonstrates the economic, political, and social complexity of what was occurring simultaneously over this entire area.”
The most recent discoveries are from the so-called middle to late pre-classic Maya period, which lasted from roughly 1,000 BC to 350 BC.
Many of the settlements are thought to have been under the control of the modern-day metropolis, El Mirador.
That was more than five centuries before the civilization reached its classical zenith when dozens of significant urban centres flourished throughout modern-day Mexico and Central America.
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