By Madeleine Muzdakis on January 15, 2023
The 2,000-year-old network is 964 settlements connected by causeways.
The ancient Maya of Central America created incredible civilizations. With their water filtration systems, mathematics, stone pyramids, and detailed calendars, the Maya dominated the region for hundreds of years. The Mayan Empire peaked in what is known as its classical period from 250 C.E. to 900 C.E. However, in the proceeding preclassical period from around 1800 B.C.E. to 250 C.E., the Maya were expanding and developing their settlements in the lowlands. Researchers recently published an analysis of one of these early civilizations, a 2,000-year-old network of 964 settlements connected by causeways.
The structures were discovered using LiDAR, a laser system that can scan through rainforests to discover hidden architecture. LiDAR can cover huge swaths of land; it has already been used to discover many Olmec and Mayan settlements in the dense forests of Central America. The recent study exposed more than 775 ancient Maya settlements within the Mirador-Calakmul Karst Basin (MCKB) region of Guatemala and 189 more in the surrounding karstic (limestone irregularity) ridge. Many of the settlements—independent architectural clusters—are connected by 110 miles of elevated dirt causeways. This interconnectivity implies the region’s inhabitants had rich economic, political, and social ties.
The laser technology also revealed monumental architecture in many of the settlements […]
(a) LiDAR image showing triadic structures in the civic center of El Mirador (b) LiDAR 3D view showing the pyramidal complex of La Danta, located on the east side of the civic center at El Mirador.(Photo: Hansen et al.)