This video discusses the recent National Geographic channel broadcast on the largest LIDAR archeology study ever performed, which took place in the jungles of Guatemala. LIDAR, combined now with supercomputers, massive data clouds and graphics processing, can create 3D maps that are revolutionizing archeology, and in the case of the Maya are rewriting their history. The video gives many examples of how these recent discoveries correlate stunningly with The Book of Mormon.
So this video in the Evidence series is going to talk about LIDAR, which is laser imaging detection and ranging, and it’s recently been deployed in a fascinating area of the world down in northern Guatemala. And there was a program that National Geographic ran on February 6th, 2018. It was called The Lost Treasure of the Maya Snake Kings, and the teaser for this show is, “See how LIDAR is revolutionizing archeology and rewriting history.” This went viral on many different media outlets.
The National Geographic story was built as, or entitled as, Exclusive: Laser Scans Reveal Maya ‘Megalopolis’ Below Guatemalan Jungle. Then BBC said, “Sprawling Maya network discovered under Guatemala jungle.” The Washington Post said, “Maya civilization was much vaster than known, thousands of newly discovered structures reveal.” NPR said, “Game Changer: Maya Cities Unearthed in Guatemala Forest Using Lasers.” The New York Times said, “Lasers Reveal a Maya Civilization So Dense it Blew Experts’ Minds.” Fox said, “Mysterious lost Maya cities discovered in Guatemalan jungle.”
So it’s a pretty exciting program. I highly suggest going and watching it online. I’ll put it in the resources section. I’m going to use some resources from Book of Mormon Resources blog that did a great job in pulling together a lot of scriptural ties from the Book of Mormon. So now respected archaeologists, because of this, are actually comparing the Maya to the ancient Chinese and the ancient Egyptians.
The way that LIDAR works is it’s expensive equipment that flies over in a grid-like pattern over these jungle areas, and they send billions of laser beams down and it penetrates through the jungle canopy and it bounces off the structures and it forms this massive amount of data. So it’s a huge data cloud, and now with super computers and graphic processing, they can create these 3D map images, so much of this … LIDAR has been around for awhile, but much of this technology is now integrated with it to be able to do these things.
They’ve picked this specific area as a fantastic place to apply the technology. In fact, they’ve talked about LIDAR to archeology is like the Hubble telescope is to astronomy. And this specific area, in fact, it’s fascinating when you watch the program because they’ll show you this, just as far as the eye can see, jungle, and then they show you what it looks like underneath there from the LIDAR detection systems. And they’ve discovered these vast, massive cities underneath.
So this specific area was a great target because many areas of the world had been urbanized or have had modern farms, things that have destroyed much of the archaeology that was there. This area, with the Maya collapse, really was preserved as the jungles took over essentially and hid and protected a lot of the structures underneath these jungles.
Now, this specific study was done in over an area of about 2100 square kilometers, and they’re going to continue going until they do about 5,000 square kilometers, which will only be about 1.4% of the Mayan area in Mesoamerica. The Maya area is about the size of Montana, roughly. It’s going to take decades really to study a lot of these things. But big picture items are starting to emerge and archaeologists have started talking a lot about these different things.
And so pulling all these resources together, I mentioned before, I put together six major categories that would be really fun to look at what the archaeologists have said or in the program that was on National Geographic, and then specific references to the Book of Mormon. And as I mentioned, there’s some great resources on the Book of Mormon Resources blog on this topic.
So first of all, highly advanced civilization. Maya civilizations … In yellow on the screen, this is what the archaeologists have said, underneath it are scripture quotes from the Book of Mormon. “Maya civilization, much more dense, complex and advanced than previous previously thought.” Jarom 1:8 says, “The people multiplied exceedingly, spread upon the face of the land, became exceedingly rich, employed fine workmanship, built buildings and machinery, worked metals, made tools of every kind, and crafted weapons of war.”
Helaman 3:14-15 adds that, “They built ships, temples, synagogues, and sanctuaries and authored many books and many records of every kind.” Okay. Another archaeologist, “We have always known that the Maya were the most advanced civilization in ancient Americas. Now we know that they were one of the most advanced in all the ancient world.” The Lord promised Jared and his brother that their seed in the New World would become, “A great nation,” and that there would be, “None greater upon all the face of the earth.” Ether 1:43.
Okay. The next category is massive population size. So archeaologists said, “Maya lowland population at the apex could have reached 15 to 20 million.” That’s why they’re considering it one of the greatest civilizations possibly now in the history of the world. Mormon 1:7 says the people in the land southward were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea. Archeologists said, “Land use was intensive, nearing 100% in many areas.” Mormon 1 says the whole face of the land had become covered with buildings.
“Tikal was three or four times larger than we thought. Previous population estimates were 60,000 at apex. The number should now be 250,000 or more. El Palmar was 40 times larger than we realized. The Maya created a vast urban sprawl.” In many places, the Book of Mormon texts mentioned large populations, “Numerous people,” Mosiah 24:3, “so many people.” 3 Nephi 5.8.
Okay. Archaeologists, “Estimates of population in the Maya area at apex have been revised upward to about 20 million. This was half the population of Europe at the time, even though the Maya occupied only one 1/30th as much land area as Europe. Mormon described the Lamanites as, “numberless hosts.” Alma 51:27.
“65,000 previously unknown structures.” Just in this 2100 square kilometer area that they started with. Mosiah 27:6 speaks of large cities and villages in all quarters of the land. Okay. Next category, road networks. Archaeologists said “vast networks of highways elevated,” notice the word ‘elevated’, “so that they function even in the rainy season.” This one really blew my mind. 3 Nephi 6:8 terminology is “many highways cast up, and many roads made.”
Next, archaeologists. “Maya cities were more interconnected with transportation infrastructure than anyone realized.” 3 Nephi 6:8 describes many highways cast up, many roads made, which led from city to city, and from land to land, and from place to place.
Then the next, “We used to think of Maya cities as isolated. They were not isolated. Networks of roads and highways connected them over vast distances.” One is reminded of the roads and highways mentioned in 3 Nephi 8:13.
Okay. The next category. Large scale agriculture. “Food production was at an industrial scale.” Helaman 6:12 mentions raising grain in abundance, many flocks and herds, and many fatlings.
“Agricultural production was on an astonishing scale with many wetlands drained and turned into irrigated fields.” Helaman 12:2 explicitly mentions agriculturalists prospering “in the increase of their fields.”
“Public works, including dikes, dams, canals, ditches and reservoirs. In some cases, Maya engineers rerouted natural stream flows.” Mormon, in describing the Nephite golden age in the land southward, mentions widespread engineering and construction works. Alma 50:12, which includes ditches, Alma 49:22.
“Agricultural terraces with irrigation systems.” Alma 17:26-27 describes a designated Lamanite place of water.
“Animal pens.” Alma 1:29 says the Nephites had an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind.
Okay. Next category. Prevalent warfare. “Ubiquitous fortresses, ramparts, and defensive walls.” Alma 49:13 mentions forts of security, for every city in all the land round about. Alma 49:18 emphasizes the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about. Mormon 50: 4-6 calls Captain Moroni’s fortifications towers and strongholds. Alma 52:6 describes Teancum preparing defenses by casting up walls round about and preparing places of resort.
“”Endemic warfare over centuries was the norm.” Mormon 8. Moroni at 400 A.D. said “The Lamanites are at war one with another, and the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war.
“Warfare was particularly prevalent in the early classic 250-500.” And again, in the Book of Mormon, Moroni wrote that their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves.
The last. “There were much more war among the Maya than we had ever supposed. Defensive structures and fortifications were everywhere. Tikal had a large fortress protecting it.” The Nephites strengthened “so many cities … all of which were strongly fortified, after the manner of the fortifications of Moroni.” Alma 51:27.
And the last category was disaster prone landscapes. Archaeologists said, “Many people lived on marginal swampy lands.” Helaman 11:20 uses the terminology “waste places”. 4 Nephi 1:9 speaks of cities sunk in water.
“There was an earthwork wall surrounding Tikal 5 meters high and 16 kilometers long. Archaeologists have begun calling it ‘the great wall of Tikal'”. The Book of Mormon describes “a strong wall of timbers and earth to an exceeding height”, Alma 53:4. “Encircling Bountiful with similar earthworks surrounding Gid”, Alma 55:25-26. And last, “stone quarries”. Alma 48:8 lists banks of earth and walls of stone as structural components.
That was a lot of stuff very quickly. Hopefully you found that very fascinating and very interesting. Subscribe for more videos.
National Geographic Channel into video to broadcast on the LIDAR study: https://video.nationalgeographic.com/…
Website with many resources tying the Guatemalan LIDAR study to The Book of Mormon: http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.