Lidar finds hundreds of lost Mayan and Olmec ruins


Airborne lidar A recent survey revealed that there are hundreds of long-lost Mayan and Olmec ceremonial sites in southern Mexico. This 32,800 square mile area was surveyed by the National Institute of Geography and Geography of Mexico, and the data was released. When University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his colleagues inspected the area, the area straddling the Olmec heartland on the coast of Campeche Bay and the western Maya lowlands north of the Guatemala border, they identified 478 rituals The outline of the locations, most of these locations are hidden under the vegetation or just too large to be recognized from the ground.

Inomata said: “Until a few years ago, it was unthinkable to study such a large area.” “Publicly available Lidar Is changing archaeology. “

In the past few years, lidar surveys have shown Tens of thousands of irrigation channels, causeways and fortresses all over the Mayan territory, Now crossing the borders of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Infrared beams can penetrate dense foliage to measure the height of the ground, which usually shows landforms such as long-abandoned canals or squares. The results show that the Mayan civilization is more extensive, And the population density is higher than we realized before.

this Recent survey It shows that the Mayan civilization may have inherited some cultural ideas of the early Olmecs, who flourished in the coastal plains of southern Mexico from about 1500 BC to about 400 BC.

Cosmological structure

The oldest known Mayan monument is also the largest. 3000 years ago, people built a 1.4-kilometer-long earthen platform in the center of a ceremonial center called Aguada Fenix, close to the current border between Mexico and Guatemala. The 478 newly discovered sites distributed in the surrounding area have the same basic features and layout as Aguada Fenix, but on a smaller scale. They are built around a rectangular square with rows of earthen platforms on both sides, which used to be a place where a large group of people gathered for ceremonies.

According to Inomata and his colleagues, these sites may have been built in the centuries between 1100 BC (approximately the same time as Aguada Phoenix) and 400 BC. Their construction is likely to be the work of different groups, and they have some common cultural ideas, such as how to build a ritual center and the importance of certain dates. In most locations where terrain permits, the gathering spaces lined with these platforms are aligned to point to the horizon where the sun rises on certain days of the year.

Inomata said: “This means that they represent cosmological thought through these ritual spaces.” “In this space, people gather together according to this ritual calendar.” The dates are different, but they all seem to be related to May 10. On this day, the sun shines directly above the head, marking the beginning of the rainy season and the time for planting corn. Many of the 478 ceremonial sites point to dates 40, 80, or 100 days before sunrise.

Lidar images of San Lorenzo (left) and Aguada Phoenix (right), with the same scale. Both show a rectangular square and 20 edge platforms.

Photo: Takeshi Inomata and Frenandez Diaz



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