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February 8, 2018



Laser Scans Expose Mayan ‘Megalopolis’ Below Guatemalan Jungle

Revealing Advanced Sophisticated Mayan Civilization

In what’s being hailed as a “major breakthrough” in Maya archaeology, researchers have identified the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, elevated highways, and other human-made features that have been hidden for centuries under the jungles of northern Guatemala.

Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.

“The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” said Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who specializes in using digital technology for archaeological research.

Garrison is part of a consortium of researchers who are participating in the project, which was spearheaded by the PACUNAM Foundation, a Guatemalan nonprofit that fosters scientific research, sustainable development, and cultural heritage preservation.

Laser technology known as LiDAR digitally removes the forest canopy to reveal ancient ruins below, showing that Maya cities such as Tikal were much larger than ground-based research had suggested.

The project mapped more than 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of Guatemala, producing the largest LiDAR data set ever obtained for archaeological research.

Causeways wide enough to suggest that they were heavily trafficked and used for trade and other forms of regional interaction connected virtually all the Mayan cities. These highways were elevated to allow easy passage even during rainy seasons. In a part of the world where there is usually too much or too little precipitation, the flow of water was meticulously planned and controlled via canals, dikes, and reservoirs.

The results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization that was, at its peak some 1,200 years ago, more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city states that ground-based research had long suggested.

In addition to hundreds of previously unknown structures, the LiDAR images show raised highways connecting urban centers and quarries. Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture capable of feeding masses of workers who dramatically reshaped the landscape.

“By identifying these sites and helping to understand who these ancient people were, we hope to raise awareness of the value of protecting these places,” Hernandez said.

The survey is the first phase of the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative, a three-year project that will eventually map more than 5,000 square miles (14,000 square kilometers) of Guatemala’s lowlands, part of a pre-Columbian settlement system that extended north to the Gulf of Mexico.

“The ambition and the impact of this project is just incredible,” said Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a University of Calgary archaeologist and Maya specialist who was not associated with the PACUNAM survey. “After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites. More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilization as the ancient Maya saw it.”

Environmental degradation is another concern. Guatemala is losing more than 10 percent of its forests annually, and habitat loss has accelerated along its border with Mexico as trespassers burn and clear land for agriculture and human settlement.

Facebook Takes Down Bogus Native American Pages

Facebook has removed multiple pages that pretended to represent Native Americans but were actually pushing news stories linked to websites seemingly from Kosovo. However, according to Media Matters review, they found that the network runs much deeper. Since the release of this - all of the Facebook pages identified by Media Matters have been taken down.

Media Matters discovered eight purported “Native American” Facebook pages pushing fake news, Facebook then removed them. But an additional review has found at least 18 more Facebook pages that appear to be part of the network. Not every page is branded as Native American, but the similarities between these pages and the false news they share suggest they are interconnected. All together, the pages have an audience of more than 3.8 million followers.

The additional pages are:

Wolf Spirit (which was verified but has since been taken down)

Native American Tribe

Native - Everything Everywhere

Native Americans - Photo - Music

Everything - Beautiful Photos

Animals-Wild Passengers

Strong Native

Native Americans (@ProNativeAmericans)

Spirit of Natives

Native Americans Daily

Native American Culture and Spirituality

Native American News

Native American Beauties

Native American Cherokee

Native Spirit

Native Americans Proud (@NativeAmericansNAP)

Two pages called Native American Tribes

There are an abundance of similarities between these Facebook pages. The pages in this network often share the same false news stories, from the same sources, around the same time. Additionally, some of the pages have direct connections to Kosovo as well as similar cover photos.

One of The Native American Tribes pages, @Native.american.Trib, has repeatedly posted fake stories from the website Health Remedies, which features ads powered by Google AdSense and is registered to a person in Obiliq, Kosovo, the same town to which some of the pages Media Matters previously discovered were connected. Other stories include one that falsely stated the police officer who arrested former first daughter Malia Obama, Bruce Willis, Miley Cyrus and many others. At the same time, the Native American Beauties page is connected to and has posted fake stories from the website Gold Articles, which also has connections to Kosovo.

Other pages also have a pattern of posting the same fake stories at almost the same time. The page Native American Tribe (@nativeamericantribe2017) is connected to the website Help Animals, which is also registered in Obiliq, Kosovo. Also posting at almost the exact same time the pages Native - Everything Everywhere and Everything - Beautiful Photos. Two other pages, Native Americans - Photo - Music and Animals-Wild Passengers, have also posted the same false stories from that website. One of the Native American Tribes pages, @Nativeamericantribes24h, also published the Malia Obama story and another one from the website Indigenous Network at the same time as the verified page Wolf Spirit when it was up. Indigenous Network has the same IP address as a website promoting cryptocurrency, according to analytic tool Trendolizer.

Other pages show the same pattern. The pages Strong Native, Native Americans (@ProNativeAmericans), and Spirit of Natives, Native Americans Daily and Native American Culture and Spirituality, have posted fake stories from the website NativeCulture (which features ads via AdSense. Three more pages, Native Americans Proud, Native Spirit, and Native American Cherokee, are all connected to the website NativeOnline, whose registration information is blocked but has published the same fake stories.

In addition, many of these pages carry the same kind of cover photo as the pages previously identified by Media Matters, which urge users to change their news feed settings so the pages appear at the top of their news feeds, with the photos carrying the text “Don’t Miss A Single One Of Our Updates” and “Don’t Miss A Single Post Of Our Page.”

In total, Media Matters has identified more than 25 Facebook pages that, for the most part, use the pretense of being pages about Native American culture in order to push fake news. And it is quite possible that this network extends to other pages Media Matters has not yet found. This network of spreading fake news for clicks is clearly extensive, and is yet another example of the Facebook’s ongoing misinformation problem.

 

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