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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

July 07, 2020
Image: Takeshi Inomata University of Arizona

Scientists have discovered the most massive and oldest-known Mayan structure using an aerial remote-sensing method in southern Mexico.

Located at a site called Aguada Fenix, the ancient and colossal structure is an elevated rectangular platform that was built between 1000 and 800 BC in the state of Tabasco. The structure did not resemble the soaring Maya pyramids found in Tikal, Guatemala and Palenque, Mexico. The recently discovered structure was also built using clay and earth instead of stone.

The Aguada Fenix Pyramid
The pyramid, which measured 400 meters wide, 1,400 long, and 10 to 15 meters high, exceeded the Great Pyramid of Giza built 1,500 years earlier.

The newly uncovered site did not have any sculptures of high-status individuals. The lack of statues suggests the Mayan culture at the early stage was communal and would later develop into a hierarchical society led by royalty.

Using the LIDAR, or the Light Detection and Ranging technique, the scientists were able to generate a three-dimensional map about the shape of the site. The radar detected nine broad causeways as well as a series of reservoirs connected to the platform.
Guatemala Pyramids

In 2018, the same technique was also used to discover more than 60,000 Mayan structures in Guatemala in one of the largest survey of a region. The ancient structures had been hidden under the 

Guatemalan jungles for centuries.
Using the LIDAR technique, the researchers were able to digitally remove the tree canopy from ariel images to reveal the ruins.

The researchers found farms, houses, defensive walls, terraces, fortresses, and over 60 miles of causeways and roads that connected large cities to the civilization's lowlands. The ancient Maya civilization connected the Guatemala structure to sites in southern Mexico and Belize.

The archaeologist believed the central lowlands were made up of small city-states ruled by warring elites.

The structures, together with the agricultural terrain, may have been home to up to eleven million Maya people in northern Guatemala from 650 to 800 A.D. At its peak, the civilization may have covered an area that was twice the size of medieval England.

The find was hailed as a revolutionary breakthrough in Mayan archaeology. It also suggested the region supported an advanced civilization that resembled the sophisticated cultures of ancient Greece or China. The result may have even debunked a theory that suggested the Mayan cities were scattered and sparsely populated.