Nearly 500 Mesoamerican monuments revealed by laser mapping, many first time

Asha Bajaj
3 min readOct 31, 2021

# Mexico; #MesoamericanMonuments; #lidar #Airborne, #Archaeology #LaserMappingTechnology; #AguadaFénix

Mexico (U.S.)/Canadian-Media: Nearly 500 Mesoamerican monuments have been uncovered by scientists in southern Mexico using an airborne laser mapping technology called lidar, news reports said.

Researchers used the imaging technology lidar to reveal 478 Mesoamerican monuments in southern Mexico, including this Maya complex called Aguada Fénix. Image credit: ALFONSOBOUCHOT/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (CC BY-SA)

The structures buried beneath vegetation included huge artificial plateaus that may have been used for ceremonial gatherings and other religious events dated as far back as 3000 years ago.

“The sheer number of sites they found is staggering,” says Thomas Garrison, an archeologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who was not involved in the work. “The study is going to be the inspiration for hopefully decades of research at these different settlements.”

The oldest and largest Maya structure ever found were excavated following the team’s effort reported in Nature last year were found in southern Mexico and parts of Central America, renowned for its striking pyramids, written language, and calendar system, and ancient Maya civilization.

Dubbed Aguada Fénix, the site was dated to 1000 to 800 B.C.E., and contained an artificial plateau 1400 meters long and up to 15 meters high and had 10 smaller platforms.

After comparing the government data with higher resolution maps at certain sites, and by visiting some of the revealed structures by foot, the analysis of the researchers resulted in the discovery of 478 formal complexes — many new to science — the team reports today in Nature Human Behavior.

Several of these monuments had the same layout as Aguada Fénix, including an even more ancient Olmec site in San Lorenzo. The researchers estimate these Olmec and Maya complexes were built between 1100 and 400 B.C.E. and would have been used for ceremonial gatherings.

This surprising discovery suggests San Lorenzo was the inspiration for the late Maya sites, including Aguada Fénix, says Takeshi Inomata, an archeologist at the University of Arizona who led the study. “People thought San Lorenzo was very unique, and that there was not much connection to what came later,” he says. He adds that the find could push the origin of

Asha Bajaj

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