Nearly 500 ancient ceremonial sites have been discovered in southern Mexico, according to archaeologists.
Researchers’ perceptions of the relationship between the Olmec civilization and the Maya civilization have shifted as a result of this discovery.
Last year, a group of international researchers led by the University of Arizona announced the discovery of Aguada Fénix, the largest and oldest Maya monument.
Nearly 500 smaller ceremonial complexes, similar in shape and features to Aguada Fénix, have now been discovered by the same team.
The discovery changes how we think about Mesoamerican civilization’s beginnings and the relationship between the Olmec and Maya people.
The findings of the team were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour in a new paper.
Takeshi Inomata, an anthropology professor at the University of Arizona, is the paper’s first author.
Daniela Triadan, an anthropology professor at UArizona, and Greg Hodgins, the director of the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lab, are among his coauthors.
The researchers discovered 478 complexes in the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz using data collected using lidar, an airborne laser mapping technique.
Lidar penetrates the canopy of trees and reflects three-dimensional forms of archaeological features hidden beneath the foliage.
The lidar data was collected by the Mexican government’s Instituto Nacional de Estadistica y Geografa and covered an area of 32,800 square miles, roughly the same size as Ireland.
Researchers can use publicly available lidar data to study large areas before moving on to high-resolution lidar to study specific sites in greater detail.
“Until a few years ago, studying such a large area was unthinkable,” said Inomata.
“Archaeology is changing thanks to publicly available lidar.”
The question of whether the Olmec civilization influenced the Maya civilization’s development or if the Maya developed independently has long been debated.
The recently discovered sites span the Olmec region as well as the western Maya lowlands.
The complexes were most likely built between 1100 and 400 BC, nearly a millennium before the Maya civilization’s heyday between AD 250 and 950.
The researchers discovered that the complexes have similarities to San Lorenzo, the earliest center in the Olmec area, which peaked between 1400 and 1100 BC. Around 1100 BC, Aguada Fenix in the Maya area and other related sites began to adopt and formalize San Lorenzo’s form.
The team also discovered an unknown rectangular space in San Lorenzo.
The sites are large horizontally but not vertically, according to Inomata.
“People will be walking on one and won’t notice the rectangular space, but lidar will reveal it…
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