An airborne leader The survey recently revealed the long-lost hundreds of Maya and Olmec official sites in southern Mexico. The 32,800-square-mile area was surveyed by the Mexican Institute Nacional de Estadistica y Geographia, which made the data public. When University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata and his colleagues examined the vast area in the western Maya lowlands just north of the border between Campeche Bay, Olmec Heartland and Guatemala, they outlined 478 official hideouts, most of which were at the bottom. Was too large to recognize from plants or soil.
“Until a few years ago it was impossible to study an area so large,” Inomata said. “Transforming Publicly Available Leader Archeology.”
Over the past several years, Leader surveys have revealed thousands of irrigation channels, causeways and forts across the Maya region, which now borders Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Infrared beams can penetrate dense sheets to measure soil height, often revealing features such as long-abandoned canals or plazas. The results showed that the Maya civilization was more extensive, and more densely populated, which we have already realized.
A recent survey suggests that the Maya civilization inherited some of its cultural ideas from earlier Olmecs, who developed in the coastal plains of southern Mexico from 1500 BC to about 400 BC.
The oldest known Maya monument is also the largest; 3,000 years ago, people built a 1.4-kilometer-long earthen platform in the center of an official center called Aguada Phoenix, near the Mexican border with Guatemala. And 478 newly discovered sites that dot in the vicinity share the same basic features and layout as Aguada Phoenix, only on a smaller scale. They were built around rectangular plazas, lined with rows of earthen platforms, where many large groups once gathered for ceremonies.
Inomata and his colleagues say the sites were probably built between 1100 BC (at the same time as Aguada Phoenix) and between 400 BC. Their construction was probably the work of different groups of people who shared some common cultural ideas, such as how to build a formal center and the importance of specific dates. In most sites, where terrain is permitted, the platform-lined assembly locations indicate the location on the horizon where the sun rises on certain days of the year.
“It meant they were representing cosmic concepts through these formal spaces,” Inomata said. “At this place, people gathered according to this official calendar.” The dates vary, but they all seem to be associated with May 10, the date on which the sun goes directly overhead, marking the beginning of the rainy season and the time to plant corn. Many of the 478 official sites point to the sunrise just 40, 80 or 100 days before that date.