09. 02. 2018 14:35
Aerial laser mapping has detected thousands of hidden structures in the Guatemalan jungle. Slovak scientists, including the leader of the Slovak team and Mayan expert Milan Kováč from Comenius University and surveyor Tibor Lieskovský from the Slovak University of Technology participated in this unique discovery. Slovakia and France are the only European countries participating in this research.
Researchers used a mapping technique called Lidar, which stands for light detection and ranging. It bounces pulsed laser light off the ground, revealing contours hidden by dense foliage. The images from Lidar revealed that the Mayans had altered the landscape in a much broader way than previously thought; in some areas, 95% of available land was cultivated. Tibor Lieskovský explained for RTVS: "We were mapping a territory of let's say a quarter of a square kilometre for 6 months. We were able to detect 20 thousand points by hand. This airplane mapped half a million points in 3 seconds." According to Slovak professor Milan Kováč, the breakthrough revelation is outstanding and cannot be compared even to the discovery of Troy. While Schliemann found only 1 city, here experts have revealed more than 70 towns. Thomas Garrison, assistant professor of anthropology at Ithaca College in New York, said that he went to the field with the Lidar data to look for one of the roads revealed and that without it he would have walked right over it.
Researchers have found about 60,000 previously undetected Mayan houses, buildings, defence works and pyramids in the dense jungle which helped to preserve them. The extensive defensive fences, ditch-and-rampart systems and irrigation canals suggest a highly organised workforce and state involvement. It suggests that its population was millions more than previously thought. The study estimates that roughly 10 million people may have lived there. The area was intensively occupied by the Maya, whose culture flourished between roughly 1,000 BC and 900 AD. Their descendants still live in the region. "The Ancient Mayans lived in an area that is smaller than the whole of Slovakia. It was a very densely populated territory," said Slovak Mayan expert, professor Kováč, during a press conference on Thursday.