LiDAR Technology Supports Discovery of Largest and Oldest Maya Structure in Mexico

Apart from assisting autonomous driving technology, LiDAR technology is also helping archaeologists to unveil the long covered structures from ancient times with its penetration feature. A research team recently discovered the largest and oldest Mayan monument via LiDAR technology and published their findings in Nature.

The team use LiDAR from an airplane to find the monument under the authorization of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico. Laser beams penetrate the tree canopy and reveal the three-dimensional forms of archaeological features with the reflections. The team then excavated the site and determine that it was constructed sometime between 1,000 to 800 B.C. with radiocarbon-dated 69, making it the oldest Mayan structure. So far, the recorded existing site in Maya was built in 950 B.C.

(LiDAR image of the site: Inomata et al. 2020)

"Using low-resolution LiDAR collected by the Mexican government, we noticed this huge platform. Then we did high-resolution LiDAR and confirmed the presence of a big building," said Takeshi Inomata, professors at University of Arizona.

Inomata and his team will continue a broader LiDAR analysis of the area. They want to gather information about surrounding sites to understand how they interacted with the Olmec and the Maya.

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