A new archaeological discovery has been made, and as with the previous discovery of undiscovered chambers in the Bent Pyramid in Egypt, the key to making the find was found in the cosmos: this time, the connection was made by a high school student, using the stars to plot the locations of ancient Mayan cities.

Stemming from his fascination with Mayan culture after reading about that civilization’s prophecies on 2012, 15-year-old Canadian William Gadoury analyzed 22 constellations used by the ancient Maya, and applied them to the ground locations of 117 known Mayan cities, and found that the arrangement matched: the Maya had chosen their construction sites according to the stars, answering the question of why they had a predilection for putting their cities in unusual areas, "The Mayans were extremely good builders, but they often built in places that made little practical sense — far from rivers, far from fertile areas. It seemed strange for a civilization that was so intelligent," according to Gadoury.

However, there was a 23rd constellation that didn’t correspond to the Mayan layout: this constellation had three stars, but unlike the previous 22 arrangements, only two cities appeared in were accounted for. This prompted Gadoury to look to Google Earth’s satellite images, and sure enough, what appears to be a large square platform, covered in dense jungle, appeared in the images where the third star would have been.

After having won first place at his high school’s science fair for the discovery, Gadoury collaborated with the Canadian Space Agency to study the location with high-resolution RADARSAT-2 satellite images, providing more details from the site. "This is something we usually do with scientists that submit proposals to us, but since William’s proposal was so extraordinary, we decided to support him as we do regular scientists," explains CSA project officer Daniel DeLisle.

“What is fascinating about the project of William, is the depth of his research,” DeLisle continues. “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.”

While Gadoury’s discovery is being criticized by some archaeologists who specialize in Mesoamerican studies, saying that he’s simply discovered an agricultural field, Francisco Estrada-Belli of Boston University cautions that until the site itself is examined in person, a determination of its importance can’t be determined. "If [Gadoury] can have access to LiDAR images, he can pretty much rule out certain areas, as well as confirm the location of even small Maya sites." LiDAR is a form of laser-scan imaging made from an aircraft, that can map the landscape’s topography, and possible solid structures on the ground, through the jungle’s canopy. A trip to the site might not happen soon, however, as it is extremely remote, and funds would have to be raised for such an expedition. Gadoury would like to investigate the site himself, having named it "K’aak Chi", meaning Fire Mouth in one of the Mayan dialects. 

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