Researchers have managed to locate in the middle of the jungle the remains of a megalopolis stretching over more than 2,000 km², as “National Geographic” explains.

Who has not dreamed, before the cartoon The Mysterious Cities of Gold, of these fabulous cities built in America by pre-Columbian civilizations ahead of their time? A new proof of the greatness of one of these civilizations, the Mayans, has just been discovered in the jungle of northern Guatemala , as told by the magazine National Geographic. A team of researchers has been able, thanks to drones and a technology using light-wave telemetry (LiDAR), to examine what is contained in this particularly dense vegetation. The results of these investigations go beyond the expectations of scientists and show a degree of advancement that impresses archaeologists, who tended to regard Greek or Chinese civilizations of that time (about 1,200 years ago) as much more modern.

“The images produced by this technology show that the entire region was highly organized and more densely populated than imagined,” says Thomas Garrison, an archaeologist and consortium member who took part in the research. “We have this Western perception that a complex civilization can not develop in the tropics […] But what the results of LiDAR prove is that Central America, in the same way as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, was a major development site for complex and innovative civilizations, “says Marcello Canuto, archaeologist at Tulane American University and another actor in this project.

A revolution for archeology

The city thus discovered was composed of at least 60 000 buildings, houses, palaces or even pyramids, connected to each other by a network of roads allowing this true megalopolis to extend on more than 2 000 km². A discovery that could soon be followed by others of the same kind. “LiDAR is revolutionizing archeology in the same way that the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy,” says another archaeologist, Francisco Estrada-Belli. This study will last for three years and should provide a detailed map of an area of 14,000 km² on which the Mayas flourished before heading north and the Gulf of Mexico.