Lidar opens Hundreds of Lost Maya and Olmec Ruins


An airborne lidar the survey recently revealed hundreds of long-lost Maya and Olmec ceremonial sites in southern Mexico. The 32,800-square-mile area was surveyed by the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geográfia, which makes the data public. When University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his colleagues examined the area, which stretches into the Olmec heartland along the Bay of Campeche and the western Maya Lowlands just north of the Guatemala border, they identified outlines of 478 ceremonial sites mostly hidden underneath. plants or too large to be distinguished from the ground.

“It was impossible to study an area that large until a few years ago,” Inomata said. “It’s in the public lidar changing archeology. ”

Over the past few years, lidar surveys have revealed tens of thousands of irrigation canals, roads, and fortifications across the Maya territory, which now extends to the borders of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Infrared beams can penetrate thick foliage to measure the length of the ground, often revealing features such as long-abandoned canals or plazas. The results show that the Maya civilization was more widespread, and more densely populated, than we have previously realized.

the recent survey suggests that the Maya civilization may have inherited some of its cultural ideas from the early Olmecs, who flourished along the coastal plains of southern Mexico from about 1500 BC to 400 BC.

Cosmological Construction

The oldest known Maya monument is also the largest; 3,000 years ago, people built a 1.4-kilometer platform land in the center of the ceremonial center called Aguada Fenix, near the current border between Mexico and Guatemala. And the 478 newly discovered sites surrounding the surrounding region have the same basic features and layout as the Aguada Fenix, on a smaller scale. They were built around rectangular plazas, lined with rows of earthen platforms, where large groups of people used to gather for rituals.

Inomata and his colleagues say that the sites were probably built in the centuries between 1100 BC (almost the same time as Aguada Fenix) and 400 BC. Their construction was likely the work of different groups of people who shared some common cultural ideas, such as how to build a ceremonial center and the importance of certain dates. At most sites, where ground is allowed, the areas covered by the platform are lined up to focus on the area of ​​the sky where the sun rises on specific days of the year.

“This means that they represent cosmological ideas through these ceremonial spaces,” Inomata said. “In this space, people gather according to this ceremonial calendar.” The dates vary, but they all seem to be linked to May 10, the date when the sun sets over the surface, which marks the start of the rainy season and the time to plant corn. Many of the 478 ceremonial sites focus on sunrise on dates exactly 40, 80, or 100 days before that date.

Lidar portrait of San Lorenzo (left) and Aguada Fenix ​​(right) in the same dimension. Both feature a rectangular plaza and 20 side platforms.

Photo: Takeshi Inomata and Frenandez Diaz



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