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Earth Science

Lidar Finds Overgrown Maya Pyramids 169

Posted by kdawson
from the run-but-you-can't-hide dept.
AlejoHausner writes "A team of archaeologists scanned the jungle of Belize with lidar. Although most of the reflections came from the jungle canopy, some light reflected off the ground surface. Using this, suddenly hidden pyramids, agricultural terraces, and ancient roads are revealed, at 6-inch resolution. The data allowed the archaeologists to bolster their theory that the ancient city of Caracol covered more than 70 square miles of urban sprawl and supported a population of over 115,000."
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Lidar Finds Overgrown Maya Pyramids

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  • by pyroclast (1809246) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @01:34PM (#32171828)

    Seems like it might be useful for finding downed aircrafts and other missing objects....maybe even people?

    Great thought, but the time to process lidar data takes a while. So planes and objects sure, but even the logistics to get this done takes time. Not sure about people, due to resolution over a vast area and again logistics. The bare-earth relief (which strips away a degree of vegetation) lidar offers is incredible. Cartographers and geologist have only recently really taken advantage of the technology. But in time and $, these other uses could definitely be considered, especially when resolution and processing is more developed.

  • Research Report URL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Atraxen (790188) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @01:38PM (#32171916)

    The NYT article was actually pretty good, but for those who want a bit more 'meat on the bone', here's the 2009 research project report:
    http://caracol.cos.ucf.edu/reports/2009.php [ucf.edu]
    There are some nice examples of the LIDAR images at the end of the page in the Figures section.

  • Re:Any images? (Score:3, Informative)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @01:40PM (#32171956) Homepage

    To answer my own question ... here is a link [nytimes.com].

    The NYT has the images so wrapped up in javascript, plugins, and whatnot that noscript didn't let me get to it. :-P

  • by city (1189205) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @01:53PM (#32172178)
    I was there in November and they have done a really good job there leaving some of the city as it exists today overtaken by the jungle and some restored to show how the Maya lived in the cities. You would have no idea the mounds and hills of the jungle are pyramids and structures. The people there say you can't buy land without diggin up a Maya house in your backyard. Today in Belize there are around 300,000 people in the whole country, versus estimations before the Maya collapse of a couple million. For perspective the largest city there today only has 70,000 people.
  • by Message (303377) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @02:01PM (#32172292)

    The summary alluded to this but mostly what you get is reflection off the canopy... when you start talking dense jungle.. triple canopy type areas then this is not going to be effective...

  • by tokul (682258) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @02:08PM (#32172380)

    Seems like it might be useful for finding downed aircrafts and other missing objects....maybe even people?

    You could also try finding out microbes with magnifying glass. Mayan pyramids are 10 times bigger than normal humans. downed aircraft looks like lots of garbage scattered in large area.

  • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Informative)

    by 2names (531755) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @02:35PM (#32172764)
    I'm not mocking at all. My original post was meant to be serious. It's not my fault that people thought it was funny.

    Now get off your educated ass and find Atlantis, dammit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @02:51PM (#32172952)
    Which is weird seeing MP3 wasn't even a standard until 1991, and not fully finalised until 1992.
  • Re:Cool. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @04:11PM (#32174028)

    Of course, there would be no trace left of temporary systems put in place to move stones, be they canals or ramps, any more than there are traces of scaffolding around the great cathedrals.

    Uh, dude, there ARE traces of scaffolding around the great cathedrals. The post holes are easily found, and will still be there in ten thousand years except where other construction obliterates them.

    Or were you just trolling?

  • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @04:20PM (#32174174) Journal

    Theres also evidence of Ramps around a few pyramids, (though not all, and none of the great ones of Giza I believe).

    I think he might have been trolling a bit, their brick wasn't just sand and water, it was a carful mixture, including wheat. A lot of preparation went into preparing the stones, so that they were so strong, which is why they are still standing to this day. Also, the way everything is assembled brick by brick, you'd wonder why the base wouldn't be one giant piece, using his theory.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @05:13PM (#32174992) Homepage Journal

    When working in or around a reflective medium, it is helpful to change the frequency to one that doesn't create so much noise. (RADAR became much more useful over water and in bad weather when the wavelength was shortened.) If something that made the canopy transparent but interesting objects below clear was an easy problem, it would have been done already, rather than relying heavily on computational analysis. However, nothing wrong with analytical techniques, which would still be very useful if a better tuning were found.

  • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @05:36PM (#32175336)
    Uh, no. Dig a shallow pit where the base of the pyramid is going to go. Flood it. Mark the water level all around. Now you know exactly where your first course of stones needs to start to be perfectly level. Lower level stones could have been floated into place using dikes and locks, but yes, this is probably impractical for higher level stones. But water could be used to lift stones arbitrarily high by a simple method: build a dike on the opposite side of structure. Add heavy boat and fill with water. Run rope over top of structure to stone you want to lift. Let water out -- lowering boat pulls stone up into place! Later, rinse, repeat. The point being, instead of using hundreds of people to drag a stone, you could use thousands of people or even some windmills to pump water uphill by distributing the pumps all along a long channel.
  • Re:Word (Score:2, Informative)

    by AlejoHausner (1047558) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @06:17PM (#32175814) Homepage

    The missing comma strikes again. Kinda like "eats, shoots, and leaves."

  • Re:Cool. (Score:3, Informative)

    by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @09:05PM (#32177638)

    I also find silly our clinging to the belief that there was absolutely no interaction between Egyptian and South American civilizations

    Why?

    The level of technological exchange you describe would have required regular communication. Given that the ships of the time could not even cross the Mediterranean safely this is very unlikely. It is not a stretch to think that one Ancient Egyptian or Greek may have crossed the Atlantic (with no understanding of global currents, this would have taken months) but not the level required to trade technologies.

    Certain advances are logical steps, writing for example, this is why there is no common root language, Hindi, Arabic, Mayan, far east and Latin scripts are all radically different despite performing the same function. The same with aqueducts and construction techniques. After the fall of the Roman empire, western cultures had to re-learn many building techniques again because the knowledge was lost, but the almost exact same techniques were rediscovered hundreds of years later. Things like lunar calendars can be discovered simply by observations, so many most cultures also used lunar calendars like the Mayans but none were ever as advanced.

    Any real contact between cultures over such vast distances were done by migration and empires were a real hindrance to this, the Persians effectively separated the Europeans from the Indians who effectively isolated the Persians from the Chinese. This was not really overcome until the end of the Roman empires. The Ancient Aborigines that came to Australia 40-60,000 years ago did so by migration from Asia via the chains of islands connecting SE Asia to Australia and no real communication was achieved with Australia until 1800. As for crossing a large ocean like the Atlantic or Pacific was perilous in Columbus' day, with ships that were able to store several years of supplies and weather severe storms.

    It seems like blatant Euro-centricism

    "Euro-Centric" seems to be one of those buzzwords bandied about for something you don't like/agree with. It's entirely logical to conclude that cultures developed similar technologies due to similar needs and observations. Give the evidence for this theory and lack of evidence of regular communication I think this one is fairly safe. Why did the Mayans and Egyptians both build pyramid like structures, because it is logically the best shape for a large structure. The Romans and other Europeans built colosseums whilst the Mayans didn't, Asian cultures built pagoda's whilst Western and American cultures didn't.

All life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities. -- Dawkins

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