Researchers from Guatemala’s PACUNAM Foundation said on Thursday they mapped the outlines of dozens of newly discovered Mayan cities previously hidden deep in the jungle.
About 60,000 structures have been discovered over the past two years in the northern department of El Peten, which borders Mexico and Belize, according to Marcello Canuto, one of the project’s lead investigators.
The finds are a “revolution in Mayan archeology,” Canuto said, adding that researchers now believe the Mayans had a population of 10 million, “much more” than previous estimates.
The finds include urban centers with sidewalks, houses, terraces, ceremonial centers, irrigation canals and fortifications, said Canuto, an archaeologist at Tulane University in the United States.
The team of archaeologists studied over 810 square miles of the PetÃ©n jungle.
Where there is darkness …
The research – using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology that emitted light from aerial lasers to construct a study of buried structures – found a pyramid nearly 100 feet tall.
It was previously thought to be a small mountain in the heart of the ancient Mayan city of Tikal, a major tourist destination in northeastern Guatemala.
âNow you don’t have to cut through the jungle to see what’s below,â Canuto said.
A series of pits and a wall were also discovered in Tikal.
“The fortified structures and major causeways reveal changes to the natural landscape made by the Mayans on a scale previously unimaginable,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli of Tulane University.
A lost civilization
The Mayan civilization was one of the most advanced in Mesoamerica, which has spread throughout present-day Central America and southern Mexico.
The first Mayan settlements were built around 1000 BC. AD and most of the major Mayan cities had fallen into disrepair around 900 AD. and 950 BC
This story originally appeared on DW.com. Its content is created separately from USA TODAY.