See how LiDAR brings a hidden Maya site to life and discovers a new major discovery

Published 2 Feb 2018, 18:46 GMT
Reveals how LiDAR brings a hidden Maya site to life and discovers a new major discovery

Thanks to revolutionary technology, researchers have made what is being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology. 

Researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala thanks to a laser-based technology. LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”) digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilisation that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.

In addition to hundreds of previously unknown structures, the LiDAR images also revealed raised highways connecting urban centers and quarries. Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture capable of feeding masses of workers who dramatically reshaped the landscape.

explore videos

History and Civilisation2:18

Is this the site of a rare Maya burial site for royalty

History and Civilisation1:17

Explore an Ancient Peruvian Banquet Hall


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved