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University team finds nearly 500 ancient ceremonial sites in southern Mexico

According to the University of Arizona, a team of international researchers has uncovered nearly 500 small ceremonial complexes that are similar in shape and features to Aguada Fénix. The find transforms previous understanding of Mesoamerican civilization origins and the relationship between the Olmec and the Maya people.

The team’s findings are detailed in a new paper published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. University of Arizona anthropology professor Takeshi Inomata is the paper’s first author. His co-authors are anthropology professor Daniela Triadan and Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Lab director Greg Hodgins.

Lidar reveals nearly 500 structures

Using lidar data, the researchers identified 478 complexes in the Mexican states of Tabasco and Veracruz. Lidar penetrates the tree canopy and reflects 3D forms of archaeological features hidden under vegetation. The lidar data were collected by the Mexican governmental organization Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía and covered a 32,800-square-mile area.

Publicly available lidar data allows researchers to study huge areas before they follow up with high-resolution lidar to study sites of interest in greater detail.

“It was unthinkable to study an area this large until a few years ago,” Inomata said. “Publicly available lidar is transforming archaeology.”

Read more here from Mikayla Mace Kelley, University of Arizona Communications.

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