Ancient Maya Society Far Larger Than Previously Thought

Feb 2, 2023

The ancient Mayans lived in the jungles of Central America more than 2,000 years ago. But thanks to modern technology, researchers are now studying their communities as never before.

They're using a technology called lidar. It's an airborne laser-mapping tool. The device has allowed scientists to look through the dense Guatemalan jungles. They've now found nearly 1,000 Maya towns. A 110-mile network of roads connected them. Researchers say it's “the first freeway system in the world.” They reported that more people lived in these communities than once thought.

The new maps “tell the story of … an incredibly … sophisticated society,” an archaeologist told The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Maya society existed from 1,000 BCE to 150 CE. Mayans lived in what is now Guatemala, Mexico, and parts of Belize. They are known for their art, hieroglyphics, mathematics, calendar, and astronomy. Archaeologists now also have an up-close look at the Mayans' road system and buildings. 

Scientists started the study in 2015. They used an airplane that had the lidar tech on it. It mapped about 700 square miles of forest. Researchers found a new city. It's called El Mirador. The city is home to a 230-foot-tall pyramid called La Danta. It's one of the world’s largest by volume. 

The “level of infrastructure is just mind-boggling,” a geography professor told the WSJ. 

Photo from Reuters.

Which of the following paragraphs introduces readers to the technology used to uncover previously unknown ancient Mayan settlements? (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. paragraph 1
b. paragraph 2
c. paragraph 3
d. paragraph 4
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