Using a remote sensing method, scientists working in southern Mexico found an ancient structure that has a total volume exceeding Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza.
The discovery in Aguada Fénix is the largest and oldest-known structure built by the Maya civilization, Reuters reports. A rectangular elevated platform made of clay and earth, it was built between 1000 and 800 BC, is nearly a quarter-mile wide and nine-tenths of a mile long, and stood 33 to 50 feet high.
Researchers used Light Detection and Ranging, or Lidar, to find the structure. Lidar is a remote sensing method used to examine the surface of the Earth and measure ranges. This technique uses laser light and other data recorded by an aerial system to generate three-dimensional information about the surface.
University of Arizona archeologist Takeshi Inomata led the research, published Wednesday in Nature, and told Reuters the structure is “so large horizontally, if you walk on it, it just looks like natural landscape.” Researches believe it was used “for special occasions, possibly tied to calendrical cycles. The rituals probably involved processions along the causeways and within the rectangular plaza. The people also deposited symbolic objects such as jade axes in the center of the plateau.”