An archaeologist, a mysterious ancient citadel, and a vanishing world

A pioneering archaeologist shows us the wonders and tragedy of a vanishing heritage.

Recent news stories have directed the spotlight on the discovery of thousands of ancient Maya sites in the jungles of the Petén in Mesoamerica, still hidden under a tropical canopy. The knowledge of the likely existence of many such undiscovered sites in Mesoamerica is not new to archaeologists who specialize in the study of the ancient Maya, and the technology application known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing method using pulsed laser to “see” what cannot be seen by the naked eye on the ground) that was used to rediscover these sites is also not new. In fact, archaeologist Anabel Ford has been using the results of this technology application for years. The following video tells her story about the rediscovery and conservation of El Pilar, a large ancient Maya city that, for the most part, still lies enshrouded in its forest canopy. She describes the discovery of what she has dubbed the ‘citadel’, an ancient Maya structural complex that differs markedly from anything else revealed in the land of the ancient Maya. She also relates, on the ground, the unfolding tragedy of a Maya preserve and heritage that is under daily threat of destruction. More detail about her recent work on the mysterious Maya “citadel’ has been presented in the article, Uncovering the Citadel of El Pilar, published originally in the Spring 2016 issue of Popular Archaeology.  

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El Pilar: Preserving the Maya Legacy from UC Santa Barbara on Vimeo.

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