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El Mirador, the Mayan megacity with a hidden 'superhighway' in Guatemala


They discovered almost a thousand ancient settlements hidden by vegetation and linked by a network of roads. Photo gallery.

The roar of spider monkeys fluttering in the treetops breaks the tranquility at the

El Mirador

archaeological site , a

Mayan megacity

with a network of highways hidden in the thick


jungle .

Murals, roads, temples, stone masks and La Danta, one of the largest pyramids in the world, make up this

megalopolis discovered in 1930

by workers who collected sap from chicle trees in the jungle, and which almost a century later continues to rewrite its history. history with the help of technology.

Those responsible for investigating the site revealed that almost

a thousand

ancient settlements were detected

hidden under the thick vegetation

in the Cuenca del Mirador, in an area of ​​6,475 km2, with LiDAR (

Light Detection And Ranging

) technology , a device that measures laser pulses distances or detects shapes), after measurements with aircraft in 2015 and 2020.

A structure protects the Popol Vuh frieze at the El Mirador archaeological site.

Photo REUTERS/Josue Decavele

"It really is a rediscovery" of El Mirador, Josué García, one of the archaeologists of the pre-Hispanic park that has been explored since 1969, told the AFP agency.

"What LiDAR has shown is that (in) areas (in) that we thought were just jungle, we now know that

there are structures

" that were part of the megacity, he adds.

The scanner also revealed the existence of

a "complex road network" of some 177 km

that linked El Mirador with other Mayan cities, which the researchers called the

"first system of highways" or "superhighways" in the world


Community guide Manuel Centeno shows a detail of the Garra del Jaguar temple.

Photo REUTERS/Josue Decavele

A model city

"El Mirador is

one of the first city-states

" of the Mayan civilization and was a "model" for other cities of this culture due to its architectural evolution, explains García near the camp, where a dozen cojolitas roam, a kind of wild turkey.

The megalopolis began to be occupied in the middle preclassic period (600-300 BC) and "the greatest development or apogee of the site" occurred in the late preclassic (300 BC-AD 250), he comments.

Aerial view of La Danta, one of the largest pyramids in the world.

Photo Carlos Alonzo / AFP

To reach the site, one must cross part of the jungle on foot or by helicopter to a remote site between the municipalities of San Andrés and San José, in the northern department of Petén, near the border with Mexico.

Many tourists, especially foreigners, begin the 41 km walk that takes two days from the community of Carmelita to El Mirador, crossing the jungle and other archaeological sites in the region for a cost of about 350 dollars per person.

Although the excursions are carried out throughout the year, adventurers who do them between May and November have it more difficult, since it is the rainy season in the area.

View of the Garra del Jaguar temple in El Mirador about 650 km north of Guatemala City.

Photo Carlos Alonzo / AFP

Although you can also do the helicopter trip from Flores, capital of the department of Petén: doing the 100 km takes just about 35 minutes, and costs $550 per passenger.

Promote tourism

The Mayan culture had its greatest splendor in the so-called classic period (250-900 AD) until it declined in the post-classic period (900-1200 AD).

It covered an extensive Mesoamerican area that included southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize, where vestiges lie that surprise visitors.

Among the dense green mantle of the jungle emerges the crest of the La Danta pyramid.

Photo Carlos Alonzo / AFP.

The main attraction of El Mirador is the

La Danta pyramid complex

, 72 m high, 600 m long and 300 m wide.

Its gray limestone ridge stands out from the thick green blanket of the jungle and is considered

the world's largest by volume

, due to the 2.8 million cubic meters of material used in its construction, according to city archaeologists. pre-columbian.

A white frieze of the hero twins Hunahpú and Ixbalanqué, characters from the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayas, also adorns a walkway in El Mirador.

One of the Mayan friezes discovered at El Mirador Photo Carlos Alonzo / AFP.

American scientist Josephine Thompson, part of the research team at the site and an expert in LiDAR, says that the new findings will serve to continue new archaeological explorations and

promote tourism in the region

, involving communities.

"We hope that Guatemala can use this data to improve tourism and make more scientific publications," says Thompson at the top of La Danta.

Henry Morales / AFP 

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Source: clarin

All life articles on 2023-01-20

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