Cities Below the Dirt
Above: The ancient Mayan structure "Aguada Fénix" in a 3D LIDAR scan. Source: Takeshi Inomata
One of the most important questions an archaeologist can ask is, "Where to dig?" It's not always easy to tell where to look when you're trying to uncover the past and sometimes digging can even damage pieces of history. That's what makes LIDAR technology so amazing; using a system of lasers, scientists can create a three dimensional map of structures buried below the ground all without even touching the soil.
LIDAR or light detection and ranging technology, allows for aerial surveying through dense forests and even under the soil. Lasers penetrate the coverage and then bounce back, giving data on what was below.
Using this technique, a team of researchers in southern Mexico were able to identify nearly 500 unique ceremonial sites dating back to the Mayan and Olmec civilizations. Some of these structures date back to 1150 BCE and evidence of their existence was only able to be discovered through this amazing technology. You can learn more about LIDAR and the new research right here!