Welcome to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond.
Greetings everyone! I thought I dip into the archeology/anthropology file and feature two tales of lost civilizations. We’re using new technology to find them and we’ve discovered one beneath the trees and possibly another beneath the ocean. Read on!
Although they certainly didn’t predict the end of the world (really!), the Maya civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula was definitely advanced. Now researchers from the University of Central Florida have done a four-day flyover of the thick jungles of Belize and discovered astounding things.
They used NASA-developed LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) equipment aboard a small plane to bounce laser beams to sensors on the ground. This method penetrates the thick jungle and produces images of ancient buildings and environmental modifications like canals. The researchers examined the area around the Maya city of Caracol.
The NASA technology aboard the Cessna saw beyond the rainforest and detected thousands of new structures, 11 new causeways, tens of thousands of agricultural terraces and many hidden caves — results beyond anyone’s imagination. The data also confirm the size of the city which spread over 68 square miles and corroborate the previous estimates for the area’s population (at least 115,000 people in A.D. 650).
The researchers have discovered that the Mayans had an astoundingly complex and ecologically sound civilization. LiDAR has enabled them to view Caracol’s entire landscape in 3-D, which offers new clues to the understanding of how the Maya built such a huge empire and what may have caused its destruction.
More information about the Caracol Archaeological Project can be found at www.caracol.org
But under the jungle isn’t the only place ancient civilizations can hide.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham in England say that a once fertile landmass now submerged beneath the Persian Gulf may have been home to some of the earliest human populations outside Africa. Humans may have lived in the area for over 100,000 years before it was swallowed up by the Indian Ocean some 8,000 years ago.
In recent years, archaeologists have turned up evidence of a wave of human settlements along the shores of the Gulf dating from about 7,500 years ago. Where there were only scattered hunting camps, over 60 larger settlements appeared in a very short time. These settlements featured well-built, permanent stone houses, long-distance trade networks, elaborately decorated pottery, domesticated animals, and even evidence for one of the world’s oldest boats. Archaeologists have been mystified by this sudden appearance of advanced civilization and they think the land of the ‘missing civilization’ may now lie beneath the Persian Gulf.
They consider it no coincidence that the founding of such remarkably well-developed communities along the shoreline corresponds with the flooding of the Persian Gulf basin around 8,000 years ago. The new colonists may have come from the heart of the Gulf, displaced by rising water levels that plunged the once fertile landscape beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean.
Historical sea level data show that, prior to the flood, the Gulf basin would have been above water beginning about 75,000 years ago. And even though it was surrounded by deserts, it would have had fresh water supplied by the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. At its peak, the exposed basin would have been about the size of Great Britain.
And it would have also supplied a wonderful basis for the story of the Flood (and Atlantis?). Maybe they’ll invent something like LiDar for underwater!