500 unknown Mesoamerican sites discovered in Mexico

The 478 new Mesoamerican sites that cover more than 30,000 square meters will keep archaeologists busy for several decades. This discovery, notable for its magnitude, was made inthis isThe Mexican state of Tabasco (in the southwest of the Yucatan Peninsula) using lidar aerial scanning technology.Radar) according to the researchers behind the discovery, which is the subject of an October 25, 2021 article in the journal nature human behavior, they would be ceremonial complexes combining Maya sites and Old Olmec sites. All are said to have been in activity between 1,400 BC. Jesse and the year 1000 of our era.

invisible vastness

With LiDAR, archaeologists can obtain precise measurements of changes in ground elevation, even through dense tree cover, with lasers that penetrate the ground and then bounce off a detector. In this way, valuable 3D maps can be developed that shed new light on entire territories, sometimes widely explored in the past. It is an understatement to say that LiDAR has disrupted the study of the Mayan world in recent years – among others – by revealing countless completely unknown sites.

An example of a rising sun corresponding to the Mesoamerican site of Buenavista, recently identified using LiDAR. credit: Takeshi Inomata

Once again, without this technology, the structures of the 478 new sites would probably never have been visible to archaeologists: low and very extensive, they are almost invisible to the naked eye, even from the sky. The team of scientists, led by University of Arizona Maya civilization expert Takeshi Inomata, did not conduct their research in this area by chance. A little more than a year ago, he found the oldest and largest Maya structure ever found there. Its namesake Aguada Fénix, with its 1400 m long, 400 m wide, and its fifteen m high height, turned out to be the pre-Hispanic remnant of all records, of which nine major causes would be the spread. In addition, 21 other sites, more minor, were observed in the vicinity at the same time. That’s enough to suggest to the researchers that their excavations should be deepened.

Because LiDAR archaeological surveys are expensive, Takeshi Inomata and colleagues relied on public LiDAR data collected by the Mexican government for more than 84,500 square kilometers. Usually such topographic information is not used for archaeology, its resolution is very low. But the researchers decided to exploit them effectively by comparing them with high-resolution maps and landmarks. Besides, Walk. He himself was surprised at the large number of new structures that had appeared before him.

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Evidence of a direct link between the Olmecs and the Mayans?

All the sites have rectangular or square elements, which archaeologists believe were inspired by the famous Olmec site of San Lorenzo, whose rectangular central space was probably used as a public plaza. San Lorenzo is generally considered the first “city” in Mesoamerica, if not the oldest urban center in the entire Americas.

Even today, disagreement remains over the nature of the link between the Olmec and the Maya: were the former Olmec direct ancestors or should they be treated as a simple sister civilization? If the discovery of these multiple sites does not yet allow judgment, according to archaeologists, it suggests that there was a shared culture between the Olmecs and the Mayans. In particular, she suggests that San Lorenzo may have inspired late Maya sites, including Aguada Fenix, Takeshi Inomata explains. “People thought San Lorenzo was really unique, and didn’t have much to do with what came after.”, the archaeologist explained the site artnet news.

An analysis that does not share the American en ciphers of the Anthropological Research Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), references to Olmec society: “From an architectural point of view, the two sites of Aguada Fenix ​​and san lorenzo i feel so different, she said a year ago science and the future, when the discovery of the memorial site was announced. Currently, I think Aguada Fénix has more in common with sites in the Mayan lowlands or central Chiapas rather than with Olmec San Lorenzo.

Number 20 and Maya Calendar

For Takeshi Inomata, the discovery of these sites would also push back the origins of the base 20 Mesoamerican calendar system several hundred years ago. And for good reason: The formations also appear in groups of 20, a number that forms the basis of the Maya’s written calendar. Some of the architecture appears to have been built to align with the sunrise on certain days, or with the surrounding mountains, perhaps suggesting a symbolic meaning. “This discovery obliges us in any case to reconsider what is happening during this period”, ends inomata.

A LiDAR image of the San Lorenzo (left) and Aguada Féniques (right) sites shows parallels with a long rectangular platform and 20 edge platforms. credit: frendez-diaz / inomata

Born around 2,600 BCE, the Maya civilization flourished in Central America for about 3,000 years, and reached its peak between 250 and 900 AD. The Olmecs, they occupied the region from about 2,500 to 400 BCE.

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