Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. It was the same for a Mexican research team – until they started using a new mapping tool.
By sending airborne laser pulses earthwards, the reflected light can be measured and turned into a virtual 3D model of the landscape.
In 2020 the team used the technology to discover a Maya structure that had previously lain hidden in thick rainforest.
Later, they searched publicly available image data for patterns, in the process discovering 478 additional sites. They date from the time between 1,000 and 400 BC and provide clues about the relationship between the ancient Olmec and Mayan civilisations.
Now it’s just a question of excavating the discoveries. The past, mapped out.