A group of researchers from the United States and Guatemala Guatemala, discovered a very large 2,000-year-old Mayan civilization in northern Guatemala, published an article in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica, the group describes the use of LiDAR to conduct a survey of the area . LiDAR technology is a detection system similar to radar but is based on laser light instead of radio waves. In recent years, it has been used to scan parts of dense rainforests for signs of ancient civilizations.

The lasers used can penetrate the dense vegetation covers of those jungles, revealing what lies below the ground with spectacular results.

In this new effort, the researchers flew over parts of Guatemala as part of a mapping effort, when they came across what they described as a vast ancient Mayan civilization.

Analyzing their maps, they were able to see that the ancient civilization was made up of more than 1,000 settlements covering approximately 650 square miles (more than 1,300 kilometers), most of which were linked by multiple causeways. The scientists were also able to see that the people who once lived in the settlements had been densely populated, a finding that runs counter to theories suggesting that early Mesoamerican settlements tended to be sparsely populated. Causeways (cleared, raised beds used as roads) added up to 330 kilometers of passable roads, making it relatively easy for people of civilization to visit other settlements. The researchers point out that the road network would have allowed collective labor efforts.

They found evidence of large platforms and pyramids at some settlements, which they say suggests that some of them served as centralized centers for work, recreation and politics. They argue that some of the settlements had ball courts that previous research has shown were used for a variety of sports native to the region. The researchers also found that civilizational people had built canals to move water and reservoirs to hold it to allow for use during dry periods. 

Published by The Tampa Herald, news and information agency.

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