Graphic reconstruction of an ancient frieze at the site of Holmul on Lost Treasures of the Maya Nat Geo.
Graphic reconstruction of an ancient frieze at the site of Holmul on Lost Treasures of the Maya Nat Geo.

Four-part series Lost Treasures of the Maya digs further into 2018’s massive finds as archaeologists explore lost ruins using Guatemala’s PACUNAM LiDAR data.

Premiering on the National Geographic channel on 12 May 2019 at 7.15pm, the finds rewrite the history of one of the most mysterious ancient civilizations – The Maya.

In February 2018 Lost Treasure of the Maya Snake Kings rewrote history as National Geographic broke the news about the pioneering PACUNAM LiDAR survey of the Guatemalan jungle that revealed over 60 000 structures beneath thick jungle canopy for the first time, including ancient pyramids, farms, highways and entire lost cities.

La Corona, Peten District, Guatemala - Carvings on a nearly 1500 year-old Maya altar, showing a local King believed to have played a key role in the rise of a Maya dynasty known as the Snake Kings. Picture: National Geographic/Arthur Haynes
La Corona, Peten District, Guatemala – Carvings on a nearly 1500 year-old Maya altar, showing a local King believed to have played a key role in the rise of a Maya dynasty known as the Snake Kings. Picture: Nat Geo/Arthur Haynes

This initiative confirmed the Maya footprint was much larger than previously thought and completely re-wrote long-held beliefs about their civilization. The LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) allows archaeologists to see through the dense trees of the Guatemalan jungle like an x-ray to create a new high-tech map.

The findings – depicted in epic new digital maps and an Augmented Reality application translating the aerial data into a ground view that was custom-designed for the documentary – lays bare the landscape below the foliage without a single tree or creeper having to be cut down.

Guatemala’s PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative returned to the jungle joined by National Geographic Explorer Albert Lin and a team of Guatemalan, American and international archaeologists with the new hi-tech map in hand to enter barely charted jungle and use this new technology to explore these newly uncovered sites for the first time.

PACUNAM LiDAR findings

The exploration of hitherto unknown cities, a mysterious line of newly discovered pyramids, and a vast fortified citadel which is rewriting the story of how the Maya waged war.

The skeleton of a Maya queen, the burial chamber of an important Maya King complete with decorated ceremonial vessels, and the sliced skull of a sacrificed child.

Maya carvings on monumental friezes, stelae (monumental marker stones) and the piecing together of a vast broken “jigsaw” revealing secrets of Maya belief.

An amazing stone altar with links to the powerful Snake Kings, an exquisite painted vase (the first of its type to be unearthed for a century), and a wealth of finds from figurines and ceramics.

Filming teams spent months on the ground, based in 12 major archaeological field sites across Northern Guatemala, to follow leading archaeologists, including National Geographic Explorers as they entered areas of barely charted jungle to explore the newly discovered sites for the first ever time.

New discoveries will be revealed to the world as National Geographic airs the new four-part series Lost Treasures of the Maya on 12 May at 7.15pm CAT.

Revolutionary new theories about how the Maya waged war will change the way we look at this ancient culture forever.

What: Nat Geo Lost Treasures of the Maya discoveries
Where: National Geographic Channel DSTV 181
Maya discoveries: Guatemala PACUNAM LiDAR data
WS