A vast network of Mayan cities is hidden in the Guatemalan jungle

Credits: Wikimedia Commons / Dennis Jarvis

Radar analysis has shown in recent days that there are over 60,000 structures in the Guatemalan jungle that nobody knew about until now -a vast megalopolis that accommodated millions more people that was previously believed. 

It is quite simply incredible. The pyramids overlook the Guatemalan jungle in Central America, but the roots of these ruins are often much deeper than they appear. The discovery came about thanks to a LIDAR analysis, which is different from classic radars which use sound waves. An area of jungle 2,100 square kilometers wide near the The Lost World construction at Tikal Archaeological Site was under study. The results, revealed a few days ago, showed over 60,000 structures that nobody had suspected were there, suggesting that the city comprised of a vast megalopolis which at the time was home to at least 20 million people.

Palaces, bridges, fortresses, homes, and other man-made structures that had been lost for centuries have been hiding all this time. The city, which is now a popular tourist site, was apparently enormous -three to four times bigger than we had previously believed. Thomas Garrison, an archaeologist in the Ithaca College (United States), explains that “The LIDAR images clearly show that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated”.

Comparative overview of the Lidar study results at Tikal National Park. Credits : Wild Blue Media / National Geographic

Previous Lidar studies had already revealed enormous medieval cities in the Cambodian Jungle, and remains of Iron Age structures in Great Britain. But nothing compares to this discovery. The results suggest a complex and highly sophisticated civilisation that existed 1200 years ago, guided by the mysterious Snake King. New estimations place the population at around 20 million people, dispersed throughout the Mayan plains. That is the equivalent of about half the European population of the time, living in an area about the size of Italy.

Among the remains were intricate irrigation systems and complex systems for working the land, as well as canals, dykes and reservoirs that kept the jungle humid. This points to sophisticated agriculture which allowed for feeding the population. The researchers also found highways, linking almost all of the urban centres together and leading to elevated quarries for easy access in times of heavy rain. In terms of fortifications, the discoveries suggest that war was an important and ever-threatening preoccupation.