Archeologists complete first-ever laser survey of ancient Mayan road

The greatest of Mayan stone roads may have been paved by a warrior queen to invade her neighbors.


NSFW    COBA, MEXICO — Archeologists have used laser scanning to chart an ancient 100 km long Mayan highway built 13 centuries ago. They say Coba, a powerful city-state, may have built the road to invade its neighbor Yaxuna. The study was published in the Journal of Archeological Science.

The University of Miami said in a news release that the study used light detection and ranging technology lasers to penetrate thick jungle vegetation and reveal the ruins beneath. The LIDAR survey mapped out the road and uncovered 8,000 structures on its path.

University professor Traci Ardren is cited as saying the road did not run straight as supposed. Instead, Coba's warrior queen K'awiil Ajaw may have built the winding road to control settlements across the Yucatan Peninsula and to attack Yaxuna.

Arden, who is a co-author, says the Mayan roads were an engineering marvel. Giant limestone boulders were utilized to fill uneven ground, then white plaster was applied to make the road surface. This substance is similar to Roman concrete and gave the road its name Sacbe, which comes from the Mayan word for "white way."
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