Massive Mayan society found hidden under Guatemalan jungle

5 Feb 2018

Image: soft_light/Shutterstock

Thanks to advances in mapping technology, a team of researchers was able to find a massive Mayan society hidden beneath dense jungle.

While not sparking claims of the discovery of the lost city of El Dorado, the revealing of the ruins of an enormous Mayan civilisation hidden beneath the dense jungles of Guatemala has been labelled a major find.

According to AP (via, the remains were found by a team of researchers using the latest light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology. This bounces light pulses off the ground to reflect an image of its topography, which can sometimes be invisible due to objects such as trees.

Located in the Petén region of Guatemala, the images reveal a site that is two or three times larger than what was once thought to exist in the area, 95pc of which was cultivated by the Mayan civilisation.

Given the fact that as many as 10m Mayans lived within the Maya lowland areas, huge cultivated regions such as this would have been necessary to feed such a large population.

The survey saw 2,100 sq km of land extensively mapped, revealing approximately 60,000 individual structures on the site, including four large ceremonial centres with plazas and pyramids.

Well preserved

The team of researchers involved in the project said the infrastructure of the land indicates state involvement because of the existence of large-scale irrigation through vast canals redirecting water.

Additionally, the LiDAR images showed large sections of defensive fences in place and a ditch-and-rampart system.

Speaking of the technology’s importance, Thomas Garrison from Ithaca College said: “I found it, but if I had not had the LiDAR and known that that’s what it was, I would have walked right over it, because of how dense the jungle is.”

He added that this example of Mayan civilisation had remained hidden because they are typically destroyed over time by future generations looking to cultivate the land.

“In this case, the jungle, which has hindered us in our discovery efforts for so long, has actually worked as this great preservative tool of the impact the culture had across the landscape.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic