Scientists in Guatemala have discovered “the first freeway system in the world,” The Washington Post reports.
In an interview with the Post, researchers from a joint US-Guatemalan archaeological study published in the Cambridge University Press in December said they had uncovered 417 cities dating back roughly 3,000 years, interconnected by 110 miles of “superhighways.”
This discovery is making historians rethink what they know of ancient Mayan civilization. The discovery of a network of roads and cities, hydraulic systems, and agricultural infrastructure suggests that communities living in Central America were now more advanced than given credit for, the Post reports.
Per the paper, these findings reflect “socio-economic organization and political power.”
The lost world dates as far as 1,000 B.C. The pre-classic Mayan epoch, previously considered to be a hunter-gatherer society, is now being rediscovered.
This discovery in the El Mirador region of southern Guatemala’s jungle is “a game changer”, Richard Hansen said to the Post. Hansen was the lead author and an affiliate research professor at Idaho State University.
The find is in a remote tropical jungle on the Mexico-Guatemala border. It is only accessible by helicopter to a challenging 40 miles hike through dense, Jaguar and snake-filled rainforest, said the Post.
“We now know that the Preclassic period was one of extraordinary complexity and architectural sophistication, with some of the largest buildings in world history being constructed during this time,” said Hansen.
The findings have unveiled “a whole volume of human history that we’ve never known,” he told the Post.
A team of scientists, including those from Guatemala and the US, have been mapping Central America’s areas since 2015. They used lidar, a laser-based mapping technology, to uncover the most minute details such as the ancient vegetation.
According to the study, it allowed scientists to identify ancient reservoirs and dams as well as platforms, ball courts, causeway systems, and pyramids.
Archaeologist at San Carlos University in Guatemala City and co-author of the paper, Enrique Hernandez, told the Post that after further work on this project, it could be as influential of a historical discovery as the Egyptian pyramids.
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