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LiDAR digitally removes the forest canopy to reveal ancient ruins below, showing that Maya cities such as Tikal were much larger than ground-based research had suggested. (Credit: WILD BLUE MEDIA/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC)

In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.

Using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology, scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.

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