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Mapping The Ancient Maya Landscape From SpaceThe Peten region of northern Guatemala is one of the last places on earth where major archeological sites remain to be discovered. It was in this region that the Maya civilization began, flourished, and abruptly disappeared. Remote sensing technology is helping to locate and map ancient Maya sites that are threatened today by accelerating deforestation and looting. Thematic Mapper and IKONOS satellite and airborne Star3-I radar data, combined with Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, are successfully detecting ancient Maya features such as cities, roadways, canals, and water reservoirs. Satellite imagery is also being used to map the bajos, which are seasonally flooded swamps that cover over 40% of the land surface. The use of bajos for farming has been a source of debate within the professional community for many years. But the recent detection and verification of cultural features within the bajo system by our research team are providing conclusive evidence that the ancient Maya had adapted well to wetland environments from the earliest times and utilized them until the time of the Maya collapse. The use of the bajos for farming is also an important resource for the future of the current inhabitants who are experiencing rapid population growth. Remote sensing imagery is also demonstrating that in the Preclassic period (600 BC- AD 250), the Maya had already achieved a high organizational level as evidenced by the construction of massive temples and an elaborate inter-connecting roadway system. Although they experienced several setbacks such as droughts and hurricanes, the Maya nevertheless managed the delicate forest ecosystem successfully for several centuries. However, around AD 800, something happened to the Maya to cause their rapid decline and eventual disappearance from the region. The evidence indicates that at this time there was increased climatic dryness, extensive deforestation, overpopulation, and widespread warfare. This raises a question that is relevant to the contemporary world-namely, how severe do internal stresses in a civilization have to become before relatively minor climate shifts can trigger a widespread cultural collapse?
Document ID
20030002463
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Sever, Tom (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Arnold, James E.
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2002
Subject Category
Earth Resources and Remote Sensing
Meeting Information
International Space University, NASA Remote Sensing and Archeology Conference(Strasbourg)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.