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Huge Maya Civilization Found, Including Roads, Reservoirs, and Ballcourts

A Maya civilization with 964 connected towns that was previously unknown has been uncovered in northern Guatemala. The scattered ruins, which are believed to date from the Preclassic Maya period, which spanned from roughly 1000 BCE through 150 CE, encompass an area of about 1,685 square kilometers (650 square miles) and are connected by 177 kilometers (110 miles) of ancient highways.

Using LiDAR, a detection method that uses laser pulses to reflect off surfaces to show hidden objects and structures, researchers discovered the network of communities. The crew used the technology while flying above Guatemala’s Mirador-Calakmul Karst Basin (MCKB) to cut through the dense jungle canopy and reveal the hidden ancient structures.

In a new report, the researchers state that the LiDAR survey “found an unusual density and distribution of Maya sites centered in the MCKB, many of them linked directly or indirectly by a large causeway network.” They discovered 775 sites in the MCKB proper, and an additional 189 sites on the nearby karstic ridge.

The 417 cities, towns, and villages made up of these 964 sites all appear to have been a part of one cohesive civilization. According to the authors, the consistency of architectural shapes and patterns, pottery, sculpture, architectural patterns, and unifying causeway constructions within a particular geographical zone “suggests a centralized political, social, and economic organic solidarity among the people.”

Prior to the discovery of the recently found ruins, archaeologists believed that this low-lying region of the Maya kingdom was sparsely populated. The size of the labor required to build the colossal platforms, palaces, dams, causeways, and pyramids dating to the Middle and Late Preclassic eras across the MCKB, according to the experts, “suggests a power to organize thousands of employees.”

Highly skilled “lime producers, mortar and quarry specialists, lithic technicians, architects, logistics and agricultural procurement specialists, and legal enforcement and religious officials, all operating under a political and ideological homogeneity,” are required to create such a civilization, according to the authors.

The astounding network of causeways is cited by the academics as “one of the crowning achievements” of the ancient Maya among the many architectural surprises found in the area. The crew discovered 38.23 kilometers (23.8 miles) of intrasite causeway in addition to 133.22 kilometers (82.8 miles) of highways connecting several communities.

They assert that the presence of these transportation linkages would have made it simple for individuals to go to neighboring villages and would have facilitated cooperative labor projects.

A total of 30 ballcourts were discovered dispersed throughout the system, and several sites contained large platforms and pyramids that may have served as political hubs.

The development of such a big population would have necessitated substantial water collecting infrastructure as the MCKB has no year-round rivers or lakes. The researchers consequently discovered 195 man-made reservoirs as well as a system of canals for moving water throughout the area.


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