Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lost City Revealed Under Centuries of Jungle Growth

An archaeologist inside a tunnel at a Mayan site.Archaeologist Brigitte Kovacevich in a looters' tunnel inside the pyramid at the Head of Stone site.

Hidden for centuries, the ancient Maya city of Holtun, or Head of Stone, is finally coming into focus.

Three-dimensional mapping has "erased" centuries of jungle growth, revealing the rough contours of nearly a hundred buildings, according to research presented earlier this month.

Though it's long been known to locals that something—something big—is buried in this patch of Guatemalan rain forest, it's only now that archaeologists are able to begin teasing out what exactly Head of Stone was.

Using GPS and electronic distance-measurement technology last year, the researchers plotted the locations and elevations of a seven-story-tall pyramid, an astronomical observatory, a ritual ball court, several stone residences, and other structures. ...

From about 600 B.C. to A.D. 900, Head of Stone—which is about three-quarters of a mile (1 kilometer) long and a third of a mile (0.5 kilometer) wide—was a bustling midsize Maya center, home to about 2,000 permanent residents.

But today its structures are buried under several feet of earth and plant material and are nearly invisible to the untrained eyed.

Even Head of Stone's three-pointed pyramid—once one of the city's most impressive buildings—"just looks like a mountain enveloped in forest," said study leader Kovacevich, who presented the findings at a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Sacramento, California. ...

via Lost City Revealed Under Centuries of Jungle Growth.

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