Published On: Tue, Jan 17th, 2023

The “world’s first highway system” was designed by the ancient Maya 1,500 years ago

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Research mapped 964 ancient settlements in 417 cities in the Petén jungle; researchers called it ‘the world’s first system of highways or superhighways’.

A “relevant” system of causeways built centuries before the Christian era was discovered along with hundreds of ancient archaeological sites in the Mayan area of Guatemala and Mexico, thanks to innovative laser technology, those responsible for the discovery reported Monday.

The research mapped 964 ancient settlements in 417 cities in the jungle of Peten, in northern Guatemala, and part of the southern Mexican state of Campeche, as well as a “complex” network of roads about 40 meters wide and an elevation on embankments of between two and five meters.

The researchers called it “the world’s first system of highways or superhighways,” in a statement from the seven foundations and organizations in charge of the Mirador-Calakmul Karst Basin project, including National Geographic and Global Conservation.

To hit the cities and roads, most of which date back to the Preclassic and Late Classic periods (from 1000 BC to the early years of our era), two flyovers were conducted in 2015 and 2018 using LiDAR, a scientific technique for penetrating the forest canopy using laser beams.

an ancient mayan ruins in the mexican state of chiapas
Photo by Los Muertos Crew on

“This technology gave us the opportunity to reveal the majesty of that and understand the importance of (the Preclassic era),” said Richard Hansen, director of the project, at a press conference to present the results of the research.

The surveyed area “demonstrates the ability of the Maya people, organized and adapted to live in a tropical forest environment, indicating a high level of organization and a sophisticated socio-political and economic structure in creating a kingdom-state,” the statement said.

The discovery could be one of the most transcendental about the Mayan civilization, whose peak dates back to the period between 250 and 900 A.D., when it extended its dominion over the south of present-day Mexico and what are today Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

Thanks to the revelations, previously published by the University of Cambridge, experts believe that there are many treasures hidden beneath the lush jungle.

San Miguel Times



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