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Lidar survey details expansive scale of lowland Mayan civilization

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Scientists have completed an unprecedented survey of lowland Mayan civilization, revealing dozens of ancient cities in northern Guatemala.

By Brooks Hays, UPI

Scientists have completed an unprecedented survey of lowland Mayan civilization, revealing dozens of ancient cities in northern Guatemala.

Archaeologists shared the results of their survey this week in the journal Science.

Lidar technology allowed scientists to map thousands of structures hiding beneath the jungle canopy, revealing the grand scale of lowland Mayan urbanism during the Late Classic period, between 650 and 800 AD.

"Since Lidar technology is able to pierce through thick forest canopy and map features on the earth's surface, it can be used to produce ground maps that enable us to identify human-made features on the ground, such as walls, roads or buildings," Marcello Canuto, director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University, said in a news release.

The unprecedented scope of the newly completed survey, the largest of its kind, provided key insights into the nature of the lowland Mayan civilization. The size and scope of the civilization's infrastructure suggest the collection of cities supported a population of 7 to 11 million people.

In addition to detailing urban centers, the survey revealed isolated houses, expansive palaces, ceremonial centers and grand pyramids. The survey also revealed thousands of acres of farmland, suggesting large-scale agricultural development helped sustain the civilization's sizable population.

More than just a collection of cities, the new survey suggests significant resources were invested in enhancing the civilization's connectivity and defense systems.

"Seen as a whole, terraces and irrigation channels, reservoirs, fortifications and causeways reveal an astonishing amount of land modification done by the Maya over their entire landscape on a scale previously unimaginable," said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a research assistant professor at Tulane and director of the Holmul Archaeological Project.

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Technology - U.S. Daily News: Lidar survey details expansive scale of lowland Mayan civilization
Lidar survey details expansive scale of lowland Mayan civilization
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Technology - U.S. Daily News
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