Thursday, October 29, 2020
Abstract: The origins of Maya civilization and its relationship with Olmec civilization have long been debated. We began our research in southeastern Mexico in 2017 to examine these questions. We identified the site of Aguada Fénix, with a rectangular artificial plateau measuring 1,400 m in length and dating to 1,050-750 BC. This is the largest and oldest monumental construction in the Maya area. This find encouraged us to expand our study of similar formal ceremonial complexes by analyzing lidar data. Although lidar has been making significant effects on archaeology, its high costs have limited lidar surveys in Mesoamerica to areas of 2,000 km2 or less. By examining low-resolution lidar obtained by the Mexican government, we covered an area of 85,000 km2, including the Olmec region and the western Maya lowlands. Our analysis revealed 461 rectangular complexes, most likely contemporaneous with Aguada Fénix. The identifications of these complexes, most of which were not known to archaeologists before our research, transform our understanding of the emergence of Mesoamerican civilizations. They also provide significant insights into how shared practices of construction and ritual across broad areas shaped the course of political change in early societies.