Massive 3,000-year-old ceremonial complex discovered in 'plain sight'

An enormous pyramid-topped platform, unnoticed until detected with the help of lasers, is the oldest and largest structure in the Maya region.

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A 3D image of the monumental platform at Aguada Fénix (in dark brown). The structure, built some 3,000 years ago, was detected by an airborne laser tool known as LiDAR.

An enormous 3,000-year-old earthen platform topped with a series of structures, including a 13-foot-high pyramid, has been identified as the oldest and largest monumental construction discovered in the Maya region, according to a paper published today in the journal Nature. It’s the latest discovery to support the emerging view that some of the earliest structures built in the Maya region were significantly larger than those built more than a millennium later during the Classic Maya period (250-900 A.D.), when the empire was at its peak.

The discovery took place in Mexico’s Tabasco State at the site of Aguada Fénix, about 850 miles east of Mexico City. It is in a region known as the Maya lowlands, from which the Maya civilization began to emerge.

In 2017, researchers conducted a LiDAR survey that detected the platform and at least nine causeways leading up to it. The groundbreaking laser technology typically is used from aircraft to “see” structures beneath dense tree canopy below, but in this case it revealed a stunning discovery sitting unnoticed in plain sight in Tabasco’s semi-forested ranch lands...

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