The Mayan Civilization
There was so much about the Mayan civilization that was shrouded in mystery. And decades after the search began, we’re still only discovering a fraction of what they had left behind.
Despite this, a recent discovery has left us questioning everything we thought we knew about the civilization.
The Fame Of Teotihuacán
Teotihuacán is one of the best-known ruins that serve as a reminder of the once-great civilization. Its fascinating layout and its history have attracted visitors for many years.
In addition to Teotihuacán, not everyone is aware of Tikal. Hundreds of thousands of miles away from Teotihuacán lies the mysterious and equally impressive city.
A Less Famous Kingdom
In the past, Tikal had a kingdom comparable to Teotihuacán and a few others that occupied huge swaths of South America. So why is it not as popular as Teotihuacán?
To this day, scientists continue to find things that baffle them at Tikal, but their most recent find had them questioning everything.
The City Of Tikal
There are thousands of structures we know about at Tikal, thanks to the Mayans’ ingenuity in using limestone.
Since most of the city, or parts of it, dates back to around 400 B.C.E., it has been buried under sand and tropical forest.
A Dominant Kingdom
Thanks to the excavations, we learned why Tikal once ranked as one of the most important kingdoms. But that’s not all we’ve learned about Tikal.
In the past several decades, archaeologists have been going through the site by hand, but with the help of new tools, they have discovered that most of our theories about the Mayans are incorrect.
In recent years, Bradley Rogers and Peter Wilkins have been part of the archeological crew that has helped uncover some of the ancient structures.
Bradley was a lifelong archaeologist who was fascinated by Mayan mysteries. Peter was drawn to anything mysterious. Together, they uncovered more about the civilization than anyone had.
Just Some Of The Ruins
It turned out that our theories about tropical civilizations were incorrect after Bradley and Peter uncovered pathways and canals among the ruins.
In fact, they found remains of an ancient field that had been used for games such as Pok-ta-Pok, which dates back over three thousand years. But that was just the beginning of their journey, and they would soon discover just how incorrect our theories truly were.
Uncovering Its Secrets
Bradly and Peter soon realized that even though traditional archeological methods would always be useful, if they wanted to uncover all of Tikal’s secrets, they would need new technology.
In order to determine what they had been missing over the years, they decided to conduct a ground survey. The results left them speechless.
Using New Technology
They got their hands on a LiDAR, a ground penetration radar that could help them see what else was buried beneath the Guatemalan jungle.
Bradly and Peter discovered Tikal was not as small as they thought when they saw the first scans. However, the best was yet to come.
A Glimpse Of The Past
Using LiDAR, the team was able to gain a comprehensive overview of Tikal’s structures and designs, which was considered a major breakthrough.
Tikal’s population was larger than we ever suspected, with approximately 60 000 people occupying the area. They even built roads, proving that the society was a great deal more complex than we thought.
We’ve Underestimated Them
In addition to showing that we grossly underestimated the population density, this new evidence confirms that the settlement system covered a large area rather than just a small part of it.
However, if we were wrong about something so major, what else could we have been wrong about?
More Sophisticated Than We Thought
It was clear from the LiDAR that the society living at Tikal was highly sophisticated. In fact, it could be compared to ancient empires like the one in Greece or the one in China.
As a result of the scans, scientists were able to map out Tikal’s area, which covered approximately 800 square miles.
Raised roads, however, were what truly proved how advanced society was. Those roads didn’t just lead in and out of the city, they led to places we never imagined possible.
There were roads connecting urban centers and quarries, but Bradly and Peter also noticed that Tikal’s people had complex irrigation systems.
Reconsidering What We Knew
It is possible that the Mayans did not use the same methods we do today, but because they did, we might have to reconsider everything we thought we knew about them.
The new evidence shows that the Mayans were not as simple as we thought, and there is still more to uncover, which truly had Bradley and Peter scratching their heads.
A Breakthrough In The Field
Despite being considered a breakthrough in archeology, LiDAR created a big backlog.
According to scientists, it will take more than a hundred years for all the LiDAR data to be fully understood. However, Bradly and Peter was able to follow up on their leads immediately after collecting them.
A Better Understanding
In light of the information their team uncovered, it was clear the Mayan kingdom of Tikal was densely populated and had the technology to build systems we never thought possible.
Two questions remain. First, how many people lived in Tikal when it was at its peak? And second, how did they use Tikal’s architecture?
Previously, scientists believed that people felt most comfortable living in societies with about 5 million people, but new research suggests that Tikal may have housed between 10 and 15 million people.
Several of them lived in low-lying swampy areas that we assumed were uninhabitable. That is where some of the answers lie.
A Love Of Water
Bradly and Peter’s team also discovered that the Mayans made full use of the water around them by incorporating waterways into their cities.
To control the flow of water, they even built canals and reservoirs to redirect traffic over the wetlands during the tropical rainy season.
Prepared For War
The team also discovered that warfare had been happening throughout the civilization, not just at the end.
Researchers found evidence that the Mayans put a great deal of effort into building defensive structures across Tikal. Could they have found more?
Finding What’s Hidden
Although some things still need to be excavated by hand, LiDAR provided scientists with an opportunity to see things they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Bradly and Peter were able to reveal what had been hidden over the years and to strip back the veil on what we thought we knew about the Mayans. But one site in particular got the scientific community buzzing.
Seeing Things In A New Light
In the words of a professor who wasn’t involved with the project, “The ambition and the impact of this project are just incredible. After decades of searching through the forests, no archaeologists had ever discovered these sites.”
In 2021, Bradley and Peter made a discovery that would prove to be the most significant in archeology and Mayan history.
A New Discovery
It was published in September 2021 that a study detailed the most recent discovery LiDAR had made at the Tikal dig site, which had been considered to be just another neighborhood housing the once massive population.
There was something mysterious about it, something scientists couldn’t explain.
It Seemed Normal At First
Initially, Bradly and Peter thought the area looked pretty normal. From above, it looked like any other neighborhood they had visited.
When they started digging, they discovered it was very different from the rest. While some of it looked incredibly familiar, it seemed out of place.
As one of Mesoamerica’s most important cities, Teotihuacán, located 750 miles north of Tikal, has many well-known structures and was once known throughout the world for its architectural beauty.
Its architecture contributed to the architecture of many nearby cities, which is understandable given the well-placed buildings in its eight-square mile radius. But what does Tikal have to do with it?
Shrouded In Mystery
Pyramids, citadels, and temples are all notable buildings in Teotihuacán, connected by the Avenue of the Dead.
It’s a view many of us have seen before, but few of us know its history. One end of the avenue points to the Pyramid of the Moon, while the other points to Cerro Gordo.
Its Beginning And End
Despite Teotihuacán’s fame, its true history is still unknown. Historians don’t even know who settled there first or what happened to the Mayans who lived there.
The only thing we know is that by 750 A.D.E the large city was empty. Does this correspond to what happened at Tikal?
What Were They Looking At?
As with everything else they found, Bradly and Peter were shocked at the findings of the latest scans.
The only difference was that this discovery would leave every archeologist in the world with more questions than they ever imagined possible. Unfortunately, no one alive had the answers.
The Exact Location
After seeing what Bradly and Peter saw, they decided to send a team to excavate the site immediately. With LiDAR technology, they knew exactly where to start.
As they couldn’t believe what the scan showed them, they wanted to see it for themselves before releasing the information. But what were they seeing that had them in a rush?
They Were Caught Off Guard
In earlier excavations, teams discovered that Tikal and Teotihuacán had a trading relationship. That discovery was made when teams discovered artifacts belonging to Teotihuacán at Tikal.
Until recently, the relationship between Teotihuacán and Tikal was downplayed, but now there can be no doubting how strong they are.
Digging Into The Unknown
There was one thing that stood out when the team finally uncovered the neighborhood they saw in the scans: it was a smaller version of Teotihuacan.
It had its citadel and pyramid as well as other structures that seemed to be replicas. Amazingly, the layout was very similar to that of Teotihuacán. The only difference was that the buildings were a bit smaller. Our understanding of history was challenged once again by this discovery.
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.