Archaeologists discover a lost world of 417 ancient Mayans cities buried in remote jungle

Scientists in Guatemala have discovered “the first freeway system in the world,” The Washington Post reports.

  • Archaeologists have found ancient Mayans built 417 cities interconnected by 110 miles of “superhighways.”
  • Historians to rethink what they know of ancient Mayan civilization.
  • In an interview with the Post, researchers from a joint US-Guatemalan archaeological study published in the Cambridge University Press in December said they had uncovered 417 cities dating back roughly 3,000 years, interconnected by 110 miles of “superhighways.”
  • This discovery is making historians rethink what they know of ancient Mayan civilization. The discovery of a network of roads and cities, hydraulic systems, and agricultural infrastructure suggests that communities living in Central America were now more advanced than given credit for, the Post reports. 
  • Per the paper, these findings reflect “socio-economic organization and political power.”
  • The lost world dates as far as 1,000 B.C. to the pre-classic epoch of the Mayans, which had previously been considered a nomadic, hunter-gather society.
  • This discovery from the El Mirador jungle region in southern Guatemala is a “game changer,” Richard Hansen, lead author of the study and affiliate research professor of archaeology at Idaho State University, told the Post. 
  • The find is in a remote tropical jungle on the Mexico-Guatemala border. It is only accessible by helicopter to a challenging 40 miles hike through dense, Jaguar and snake-filled rainforest, said the Post.
  • We now know that the Preclassic period was one of extraordinary complexity and architectural sophistication, with some of the largest buildings in world history being constructed during this time,” said Hansen.
  • The findings have unveiled “a whole volume of human history that we’ve never known,” he told the Post. 
  • The team, with scientists from the US and Guatemala, has been mapping the areas in Central America since 2015 and has used lidar technology — a key archaeological laser mapping technique — to reveal the finest details, such as ancient vegetation. 
  • It allowed the scientists to see ancient dams, reservoirs, pyramids, platforms, causeway networks, and even ball courts, per the study. 
  • Archaeologist at San Carlos University in Guatemala City and co-author of the paper, Enrique Hernndez, told the Post that after further work on this project, it could be as influential of a historical discovery as the Egyptian pyramids. 


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