Maya 'lost city' revealed in Central America

Posted May 24, 2010 by Christopher Szabo
Airborne surveys using optical technology over the Central American country of Belize have revealed new images of an ancient Maya metropolis that is far larger than previously thought.
The ruins of the ancient Maya city of Palenque
The ruins of the ancient Maya city of Palenque
Scientists made the announcement at the International Symposium on Archaeometry in Tampa, Florida.
The National Geographic website reported a LIDAR system (Light Detection and Ranging) ”stripped” away the thick rain forests on computer and revealed new images of the ancient Maya metropolis of Caracol. A LIDAR system was placed on an aircraft that performed flyovers of the area in April 2009.
LIDAR is a relatively new system operated from aircraft or satellites which like similar RADAR (Radio Detection and Ranging) or SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) systems bounce radio, sound or optical waves off the target, in this case light or laser waves off the ground.
The LIDAR data helped scientists construct a 3-D map of the ancient city. In just four days, the survey revealed previously undiscovered roads, buildings and other features.
In contrast, two anthropologists, Arlen and Diane Chase, have spent decades cutting their way through jungle that has overgrown the ruins, but uncovered only a tiny part of the ruins. Speaking of the LIDAR results, Arlen Chase said:
It's like literally removing all of the plant growth, so that we can see down below.
The LIDAR survey was carried out by America’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping and was funded by NASA.
The Chases are in charge of a joint effort between the University of Central Florida and the Belize Institute of Archaeology to unearth the ancient Mayan site.
The Maya civilization covered most of southern Central America and built large cities with step-pyramids including Tikal, Palenque and Copán. The Mayas had a hieroglyphic writing system, mathematics and were expert astronomers.