Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Canadian Teen Used Space Archaeology in Hunt for Lost Mayan City

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Canadian Teen Used Space Archaeology in Hunt for Lost Mayan City

Article excerpt

A 15-year-old archaeologist has created a celestial building plan of one of Latin America's ancient civilizations using satellite images and star charts in a dramatic demonstration of the latent promise - and limits - of "space archaeology."

From his home in Quebec, William Gadoury had pored over constellation charts and maps of Mayan geography in Latin America, as the Journal de Montreal reported. The alignment of heavenly bodies with temples or complexes on a site is well-established, but William hypothesized the Mayans had lined up an entire complex of cities with the stars.

"I did not understand why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands and in the mountains," William told Journal de Montreal. "They had to have another reason, and as they worshiped the stars, the idea came to me to verify my hypothesis. I was really surprised and excited when I realized that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities."

William used his map, which covers parts of Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize, to predict the location of an undiscovered city. Based on satellite images he obtained through NASA, JAXA (Japan's Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency, he believes he found a city he is calling K'aak' Chi' or "fire mouth," Samuel Osborne wrote for the Independent. William hopes to visit the site in Belize someday to properly explore the hypothesis.

Charles Golden, an anthropologist who specializes in Mayan archaeology, applauded William's creative use of new technology to explore the area, but he urged caution in claiming discovery before the fieldwork has verified it.

"It's an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence to back it up," Dr. Golden tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. "It requires a belief that over a period of hundreds of years, people across various areas communicated with one another, and there's just no evidence to date that this is the case."

Archaeologists say such technology-aided findings are likely to continue as technology improves and higher-resolution images become available, but suggest guidelines that would reflect new advancements in technology while maintaining the integrity of fieldwork.

Visiting the site is critical to proving the claim, Golden says. Having performed his own "space archaeology" research with help from NASA, Golden doubts radar could penetrate the dense jungle enough to prove a city's existence. …

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