A 3D image of the newly discovered Maya site of Aguada Fenix based on lidar, a new technique that is revolutionizing archeology.

Aguada Phoenix: Largest and oldest Mayan temple revealed by laser mapping

It’s hard work that takes a whole career to complete.

But now, archaeologists – or at least their tools – are taking to the skies.

A new remote-sensing technique known as leader or light detection and ranging can create detailed models of any terrain, usually revealing secrets hidden by tree canopies and forests.

This laser mapping is increasing the speed and scale of archaeological discoveries and has now revealed the first and largest formal structure built by Maya – covering more land than the Gray Pyramids of Egypt.

“It’s so huge horizontally that if you walk on the site it looks like a part of the natural landscape. You can’t recognize its rectangular shape but it turned out nicely in the lidar,” said Texi Inomata, professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and head of research at Discovery. Author, which was published on Wednesday Journal Nature.

“Without Lidar, we probably are Must recognize The importance of this site is ultimately. But it can take many seasons of laborious mapping on the ground, ”he said.

Known as the Ayuad Phoenix in Tabasco, Mexico, this previously unknown Maya site was built between 1,000 and 600 BC. The huge elevated platform stands 10 to 15 meters above the surrounding area extending from the nine causeway platforms.

Inomata says it is 3.8 million cubic meters, larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt (2.6 million cubic meters) — although much smaller than the pyramid.

The platform was used for formalities and the team found the Z axis and other valuables in its center, Inomata said.

The axes were excavated from the site, which dates back to 1000-700 BC. Other valuables were also found.

“Officially the procession on the causeway and the gathering of large numbers of people in the rectangular plaza were involved. It was a gathering place for the community, which probably inspired people to build it.”

Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization that flourished throughout Mexico and Central America from 2000 BC to the time of the Spanish Conquerors. In the 16th century. These are best known for the tall, stepped pyramids built on sites like Chichen Itza.

Game changer

Patricia McAnani, a map archaeologist and professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said she was not involved in the revolution in archeology, just as the leader invented radiocarbon dating in the 1940s. Find out.

Laser mapping reveals dozens of ancient Mayan cities

The technique relies on laser pulses, which are emitted from aircraft or drones, and the signals that come back generate data. After image processing the plant can create models of empty terrain that have been digitally moved.

“The straight lines and angles in the Near-Terrain model suggest such elements rather than human rather than geological sources,” McAnani wrote in a commentary on the study, published in Nature.

It took before The area of ​​a few years old on the map of a large ancient Maya city, such as Tikal in Guatemala and Caracol in Belize, Dr. McAnny’s comment.

“I spent thousands of hours of fieldwork walking behind a local machete-driven man who would cut a straight line through the forest,” McAnani said. “This process creates a grid in which we archaeologists proceed on foot to identify any structure that is present. The structures can then be mapped by making more extensive cuts to reveal the angles, shapes and heights of the ancient structures.

In addition to mapping the Aguada Phoenix from the sky, the team excavated the site, discovering ceramic ships and other materials.

“Lidar images of the flight of an aircraft may have been generated by conventional archaeological surveys over decades,” he said.

Human cooperation

This latest discovery illuminates a central question in archeology: how did community life evolve? Did it start with a spiritual life sitting in a small village or with periodic gatherings for formal activities such as religion or astronomy?

McAnani said that spiritual life was generally thought to pave the way for ritual, but new evidence is emerging to suggest that it was otherwise.

Research on the newly discovered site suggests that the lack of residential platforms suggests that residents there lived at least partially nomadic lives.

A stone sculpture was found in the Aguada Phoenix between 1000-700 BC.

Inomata said the discovery also questions the conventional view that large construction projects in ancient times required a strong elite and social inequality.

While no clear indicators of social inequality were identified, such as sculptures representing high-profile individuals, Inomata said the construction of the Aguada Phoenix took place “in the absence of powerful elites.”

“Although there were some leaders who played a central role in planning and organizing this kind of work, the main reason was the voluntary participation of the people in such construction. It shows the potential of our humanitarian cooperation which does not require any central government.”

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