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kottke.org posts about Guatemala

Evidence of advanced Mayan civilization found hidden in Guatemalan jungle

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2018

Using LIDAR, a team of researchers in Guatemala has been able to peer underneath the dense jungle to see what the landscape looked like in the time of the Mayans, a civilization which reached its peak between 250-900 A.D. — an x-ray of the forest, if you will. The results are astonishing…they reveal a civilization much larger and more sophisticated than previously thought.

Lidar Maya

The results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization that was, at its peak some 1,200 years ago, more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city states that ground-based research had long suggested.

In addition to hundreds of previously unknown structures, the LiDAR images show raised highways connecting urban centers and quarries. Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture capable of feeding masses of workers who dramatically reshaped the landscape.

The potential of LIDAR as a cultural and geological time machine is just starting to be realized. You might remember these LIDAR images of the geology of forested areas in Washington State.

Update: Another team, working in Mexico, recently used LIDAR to uncover a city built by the Purépecha civilization that had as many buildings as modern-day Manhattan.

Political intrigue in Guatemala

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2011

A fascinating story by David Grann in the New Yorker about a pair of political assassinations in Guatemala that aren’t what they first seemed.

As Rosenberg dug deeper into the subterranean world of Guatemalan politics, he told friends that he had begun receiving threats himself. One day, Mendizábal says, Rosenberg gave him a phone number to write down — it was the number that showed up on his caller I.D. when he received the threats.

Rosenberg told friends that his apartment was under surveillance, and that he was being followed. “Whenever he got into the car, he was looking over his shoulder,” his son Eduardo recalled. From his apartment window, Rosenberg could look across the street and see an office where Gustavo Alejos, President Colom’s private secretary, often worked. Rosenberg told Mendizábal that Alejos had called him and warned him to stop investigating the Musas’ murders, or else the same thing might happen to him. Speaking to Musa’s business manager, Rosenberg said of the powerful people he was investigating, “They are going to kill me.” He had a will drawn up.

Anything by Grann is becoming a must-read at this point. (via someone on Twitter, I forget who (sorry!))