An airborne laser mapping survey covering more than 2000 square kilometres of northern Guatemala has revealed at least 61,000 ancient structures hidden in the dense tropical forest.
The structures, which include large buildings, whole towns and networks of roads, were built by the Mayans. The oldest of them may date to before 500 BCE.
In a study published in the journal Science, researchers led by Marcello Canuto from Tulane University in the US, estimate that during the period from 650 to 800 CE, as many as 11 million Maya lived in the region. The extent of the finds compels a re-examination of the history of the area, they conclude.