60,000 Hidden Mayan Ruins Discovered in Guatemala --"Technology Used is Equivalent to the Hubble Space Telescope"
"Lidar is revolutionising archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionised astronomy," Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist, told National Geographic. "We'll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we're seeing."
Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications. The landscape, near already-known Maya cities, is thought to have been home to millions more people than other research had previously suggested.The researchers mapped over 810 square miles (2,100 sq km) in northern Peten.
Archaeologists believe the cutting-edge technology will change the way the world will see the Maya civilization, reports the BBC. "I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology," said Stephen Houston, Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Brown University.
Mr Houston told the BBC that after decades of work in the archaeological field, he found the magnitude of the recent survey "breathtaking". He added, "I know it sounds hyperbolic but when I saw the [Lidar] imagery, it did bring tears to my eyes."
A Lidar image showing hundreds of previously unseen structures. Most structures are believed to be stone platforms for pole-and-thatch homes.
Results from the research using Lidar technology, which is short for "light detection and ranging", suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization more akin to sophisticated cultures like ancient Greece or China.
"Everything is turned on its head," Ithaca College archaeologist Thomas Garrison told the BBC. He believes the scale and population density has been "grossly underestimated and could in fact be three or four times greater than previously thought".
Described as "magic" by some archaeologists, Lidar unveils archaeological finds almost invisible to the naked eye, especially in the tropics.
It is a sophisticated remote sensing technology that uses laser light to densely sample the surface of the earth. Millions of laser pulses every four seconds are beamed at the ground from a plane or helicopter. The wavelengths are measured as they bounce back, which is not unlike how bats use sonar to hunt. The highly accurate measurements are then used to produce a detailed three-dimensional image of the ground surface topography.
Article was originally published on DailyGalaxy.