A team of researchers at the University of Arizona are exploring ancient Mayan settlements in ways never done before.
With the help of LiDAR, an imaging technology using lasers, professor Takeshi Inomata and his cohort are cutting through the dense jungles to visualize the structures underneath in the Ceibal, Guatemala.
The resulting map shows an area a bit bigger than the size of Tucson (about 181 miles), with contours of pyramids, roads, and water reservoirs.
"This kind of understanding was really unthinkable some years ago, and now suddenly we can have all these data," Inomata said. "The scale is completely different."
The findings were recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The work of mapping the terrain took a few days of flying a small plane equipped with the sensors over the area.
Mapping an archaeological site in a densely vegetated area such as the Guatemalan jungle is a daunting task - one traditionally done on foot, Inomata says. Because of the challenging terrain, only less than a square mile of Ceibal had been mapped previously.