Scientists are once again officially not dumber than school kids, now that it has been suggested that the supposed lost Mayan city discovered by a Canadian teenager probably isn’t a city at all.
In what had seemed like the most sensational Mayan-based news story since the world failed to end in 2012, media outlets (including us) had been purring about 15-year-old William Gadoury, who seemed to have cracked an ancient mystery that had eluded his full-grown peers, by noticing that Mayan cities were constructed in alignment with stellar constellations.
Using satellite imagery provided by the Canadian Space Agency, he was then able to pinpoint what many experts claimed was a large man-made structure, deep in the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula. Some began to suggest that the square-shaped object was the base of an enormous Mayan pyramid, and in the initial excitement the story went global.
However, an archaeologist from the University of California, San Diego, named Geoffrey E. Braswell soon got in touch with Gizmodo and the Washington Post to explain that he has in fact visited the site, and can confirm that “there are no ancient pyramids” anywhere to be seen. Instead, he claims that “the two rectangular features identified as pyramids are small fields filled with weeds,” adding that “the fields may be fallow or may be active marijuana fields, which are common in the area.”
So it seems that Gadoury may actually have just exposed the hidden operations of illegal drug manufacturers rather than a historical relic. Regardless of what the fields are being used for, though, several other researchers have come out in agreement with Braswell that the features on the satellite images are indeed pyramidless plots of land.
Anthropologist Thomas Garrison, who is an expert in remote sensing, told Gizmodo that “the rectilinear nature of the feature and the secondary vegetation growing back within it are clear signs of a relic milpa,” a type of cropping field common throughout Mexico and Central America. “This is obvious to anyone that has spent any time at all in the Maya lowlands,” he says.
Just as when people prematurely jumped on the 2012-apocalypse bandwagon, it seems that once again we’ve let our imaginations run away with us when it comes to the Mayans. Sadly, some researchers are now even tearing apart Gadoury's idea that the pre-Columbian culture built its cities in line with celestial bodies, suggesting that Mayan settlements are just so numerous throughout the Yucatan that finding a pattern like this is inevitable once you look for it.