Archaeologists have uncovered over 60,000 previously unknown Mayan monuments with the help of state-of the art laser technology, in the jungles of Guatemala. These include foundations for houses, military fortifications, and elevated causeways.
Archaeologists call it one of the greatest advances in Maya archeology.
"I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology," Stephen Houston, an archaeologist at Brown University with decades of experience studying Mesoamerican cultures told the BBC.
"I know it sounds hyperbolic but when I saw the imagery, it did bring tears to my eyes," he added.
"This is HOLY $ HIT territory," Sarah Parcak, a professor of archaeology at the University of Alabama and a National Geographic fellow who was not involved in the project, tweeted.
"We'll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we're seeing," Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist, told National Geographic.
The researchers used a technology called Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) , which uses millions of laser pulses to detect structures underneath the dense jungle foliage, that cannot be seen by the naked eye. The technology works like sonar which is used on ships to gauge depth.
The instrument which generates the laser pulses is mounted on aircraft, like a light airplane or a helicopter, and the wavelengths of light reflected is measured.
The survey of 2,000 square kilometers of northeastern Guatemala offers a bird's-eye view of the landscape of ancient Maya cities, farms, and highways. Archaeologists are now asking questions about the mysterious civilisation.
For instance, the LiDAR images revealed thousands of acres of gridlike canal systems outlining raised blocks of land.
''These features are so extensive that it makes us start to wonder: is this the breadbasket of the Maya lowlands?'' Ars Technica quoted archaeologist Tom Garrison of Ithaca College, whose team is working with the survey data. ''Is this where they're growing so much... that maybe they're building an economy around it? Because where I work, close to Tikal, we have these features, but they're in smaller pockets.''