Scientists at the University of Arizona have discovered the ruins of 478 Mayan temples in Mexico.
An international team of scientists led by University of Arizona archaeologists has discovered about 500 previously unknown small ceremonial complexes belonging to the ancient Maya in Mexico. According to an article published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, the discovery changes the previous ideas of historians about the origin of Mesoamerican civilization and the relationship between the Maya and Olmec.
Researchers analysed data collected by airborne laser scanning and identified 478 temple complexes in the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz. Lidar technology, which involves receiving a reflected laser signal from an opaque object, allowed scientists to detect previously unknown cultural objects under tree crowns and vegetation. A total of about 85,000 square kilometres has been scanned, which is more than the area of Ireland (70,000 square kilometres).
Ceremonial complexes are found in regions inhabited by the Olmecs, an ancient Mexican tribe that flourished between 1500-400 BC and is thought to have influenced subsequent Mesoamerican cultures, including the Maya. The ruins date from 1100-400 B.C. and were built by various groups almost a millennium before the Maya civilisation flourished from 250-950 A.D.
The complexes share features with the earliest centre in the Olmec area, San Lorenzo, which peaked between 1400 and 1100 BC. It also turns out that the largest and oldest Mayan monument, Aguada Phoenix, in the Mayan area and other related sites began to take the characteristic shape of San Lorenzo (a rectangular area with edge platforms) around 1100 BC. This indicates that the Olmec culture did serve as a model for later Mesoamerican buildings, including Aguada Phoenix.
San Lorenzo, Aguada Phoenix and some other sites have 20 marginal platforms (embankments) along the eastern and western sides of the rectangular area. The orientation of some of the complexes corresponds to the direction of the sunrise point on a particular day of the year. Scientists believe that in some cases on a given day the sun passes through the zenith, directly overhead, as it does on 10th May in the area where the monuments were found. On this day the rainy season begins and the sowing of maize begins. Some groups have chosen to orient their sites in the direction of sunrise 40, 60, 80 or 100 days before the day of the zenith passage. These dates are multiples of the number 20 on which the later Mesoamerican calendars are based.