They may have lived some 1,700 years ago, but the ancient Maya had an incredible knowledge of celestial bodies, which they believed influenced everything from harvest to death.
Now a 15-year-old boy has studied astronomical charts devised by these ancient Mexican people, as well as satellite photos, to pinpoint the location of a forgotten Mayan city.
William Gadoury, from Quebec has named the ‘lost city’ in the Yucatan jungle K’aak Chi, or Mouth of Fire.
Satellite images suggest the lost city could be among the largest built by the ancient civilization, which thrived between 300 and 700 AD.
Wondering why the ancient people built their cities far away from rivers and in inhospitable mountains prompted the teenager to look to the sky for answers, because the Mayans worshiped the stars.
Gadoury came up with a theory the Maya built their cities so they lined up with star constellations.
The teenager analyzed 23 Mayan constellations to realize if he connected them, the 142 stars corresponded to the position of 177 Mayan cities.
HOW DID HE MAKE THE FIND?
William Gadoury became interested in the Maya after he read about their calendar announcing the end of the world in 2012.
He found 22 constellations in a Maya Codex Madrid and connected the stars in them to create a kind of map.
He was able to overlay this on satellite images from Google Earth, to find the stars correspond to the locations of cities.
In all, 142 stars to 117 correspond Mayan cities and the brightest stars indicate the largest cities.
Incredibly, the brightest of the stars match up with the largest cities.
‘I was really surprised and excited when I realized that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities.’ He told The Journal of Montreal.
He is said to be the first to make the connection, which could lead to further finds.
It was in the 23rd constellation, containing three stars, that he found two matching cities on the map, suggesting one has not yet been re-discovered.
To investigate further, he used satellite images from the Canadian Space Agency and Google Earth to search the dense jungle for any signs of buildings.
THE ANCIENT MAYA AND THE STARS
Mayan civilization thrived for more than 2,000 years with its heyday being 300 to 900 AD.
During that time, the ancient people built incredible cities using advanced machinery and gained an understanding of astronomy, as well as developing advanced agricultural methods and accurate calendars.
The Maya believed the cosmos shaped their everyday lives and they used astrological cycles to tell when to plant crops and set their calendars.
It’s therefore likely the Maya may have chosen to locate their cities in line with the stars.
It’s already known that the pyramid at Chichén Itzá was built according to the sun’s location during the spring and autumn equinoxes.
When the sun sets on these two days, the pyramid casts a shadow on itself that aligns with a carving of the head of the Mayan serpent god, History.com reported.
The shadow makes the serpent’s body so that as the sun sets, the terrifying god appears to slide towards the earth.
The photographs revealed linear features that ‘stuck out,’ Daniel De Lisle, from the Canadian Space Agency told The Independent.
‘There are linear features that would suggest there is something underneath that big canopy,’ he said.
Armand La Rocque, from the University of New Brunswick believes one of the images shows network of streets leading to a large square, which may be a pyramid.
‘A square is not natural, it is mostly artificial and can hardly be attributed to natural phenomena,’ he said.
It’s possible 30 buildings accompany an impressive pyramid at the site.
If true, the lost city would be one of the five largest known to archaeologists, built by the Mayans.
Mr de Lisle told The Journal of Montreal: ‘What is fascinating about the project of William, is the depth of his research.
‘Linking the position of stars and the location of a lost city and the use of satellite images on a tiny territory to identify the remains buried under dense vegetation, is quite exceptional.’
Dr la Rocque thinks William Gadoury’s technique could lead archaeologists to pinpointing the location of more possible lost Mayan metropolises.
The teenager would like to see the Mayan’s Mouth of Fire for himself and as yet, no-one has ventured into the jungle to confirm his ‘find’.
Gadoury’s discovery will be presented at Brazil’s International Science fair in 2017 and published in a journal.