Dating back as far as 2000BC, many of the Mayans’ incredible structures can still be found in the jungles of southeast Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and western parts of Honduras. Archaeologists have spent decades trying to map and understand the society, but thanks to a groundbreaking technique – known as remote sensing – they were able to digitally remove the overgrown jungle. The breakthrough revealed the pre-Colombian civilisation’s foothold in Tikal was far more advanced than previously believed and the Smithsonian Channel uploaded a mini-documentary on their YouTube channel to show the results.
The narrator said: “Groundbreaking technology revealed something astonishing about ancient Mayan society.
“In the lowlands of Guatemala, the grand palaces of the soaring pyramids of Tikal still resonate with splendour and power.
“In its heyday, the city was far larger than what is now visible.
“Remote sensing technology has shown that Tikal was once part of a much greater collection of cities, now hidden beneath the ruins of the jungle.
“The sheer extent of this urban area and its population is beyond anything previously imagined.”
The series went on to reveal how the secrets of this ancient civilisation were uncovered, helping to paint a picture of the daily life of the Maya.
It added: “Between 600AD and 900AD it is a vast bustling metropolis, a centre of trade and industry where people live elbow-to-elbow.
“There were over 1,000 residents – ranging from humble labourers and servants to high-ranking nobles.
“Dominating all is a mighty king or ruler, who communicates with the gods on behalf of his people.
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Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the ancient civilisation and was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the Maya.
Though architecture at the site dates back as far as the fourth century BC, Tikal reached its heights during the Classic Period, between 200AD to 900AD.
During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily, while interacting with areas throughout Mesoamerica.
There is also evidence that Tikal was conquered by Teotihuacan in the fourth century AD.
Following the end of the Late Classic Period, no new major monuments were built at Tikal and some say there is proof the elite palaces were burned.