2,000-Year-Old Maya Superhighway Discovered in the Jungle of Guatemala
Few ancient civilizations have left us evidence of the roads they built to maintain effective communication and transportation within their sphere of influence. Until recently, the model for effective road creation and maintenance was ancient Rome. However, the recent discovery of a system of superhighways that once connected pyramidal complexes over a distance of 150 miles (240 km) in Guatemala, means that the Maya civilization may now rival the Romans.
The finding was made last month by researchers of the Mirador Basin (Archaeological) Project. In the Mirador Basin there are many pre-classic Maya sites including El Mirador, Nakbe, El Pesquero, El Tintal, Wakna, and Xulnal.
High-Tech Scans Reveal 2,000-Year-Old Superhighway
Researchers found the 2000-year-old superhighway using LIDAR mapping technology. Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is an aerial surveying technology that uses lasers to make high-resolution 2D and 3D maps. LIDAR technology enabled researchers to have a 3D view of the Mirador Basin without the dense jungle obscuring it.
LIDAR scan reveals a network of roads in the Guatemala jungle. Credit: Archaeological Project Cuenca Mirador.
Led by Richard D. Hansen, an archaeologist and anthropologist of the University of Utah, the results of the team’s research is providing us with keen insight into the innovations of the ancient Maya civilization.
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El Mirador, A Vast City in the Depths of the Jungle
El Mirador was the largest Mayan city-state in Guatemala, and contains the largest known pyramid in Central America. Situated in the Peten jungle of northern Guatemala, Mirador stretched over an area of 2,158 sq km/833 sq m, and included a population of around a million people. Dr. Hansen said El Mirador was “the first state of all the Americas”.
An illustration showing what El Mirador may have once looked like. (Latin American Studies)
LIDAR Reveals the Innovations of the Maya
Using LIDAR, the researchers discovered that hidden beneath the thick canopy of the jungle below, were canals, corrals, pyramids, dikes, and terraces alongside the extensive network of roads.
LIDAR scan reveals a network of roads, canals, corrals, pyramids, and terraces at El Mirador. Credit: Archaeological Project Cuenca Mirador.
Wide-scale Meat Production
Researchers believe that the animal pens or corrals may have been established first by the inhabitants of El Mirador. Hansen maintains that the sophisticated system of corrals is evidence that meat production in the Mirador Basin may have existed on an industrial level. But he made it clear there needs to be more research to confirm this theory.
The discovery of the Mirador ancient network of roads and new pyramids will provide the Mirador Basin Project researchers with more Maya sites to investigate. Upcoming findings at these sites may help to shed light on why the Mirador Basin civilization declined after 150 AD.
Top image: LIDAR scan reveals a network of roads, canals, corrals, pyramids and terraces at El Mirador. Credit: Archaeological Project Cuenca Mirador.
By Dr.Clyde Winters
Paul Seaburn. Ancient Mayan Superhighways Found in Guatemalan Rain Forest. Mysterious Universe. Available at: http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2016/12/ancient-mayan-superhighways-found-in-guatemalan-rain-forest/
Researchers find “the first network of ancient super-highways in the world”. Actualidad Venezuela. Available at: http://actualidadvenezuela.org/2016/12/13/researchers-find-the-first-network-of-ancient-super-highways-in-the-world/