Archaeologist Anabel Ford has been exploring and studying the ancient Maya site of El Pilar, but until now she has never encountered anything like the ‘Citadel’.
“We discovered a completely new component of the greater site that does not meet with any traditional expectations,” said Ford. “It shares nothing in common with Classic Maya centers: no clear open plaza, no cardinal structure orientation, and curiously no evident relationship to the major Classic site of El Pilar, little more that 600 meters away.” (Scroll Down for Video)
What Ford was describing was an unseen building, or associated complex of buildings, that was recently only detected by remote sensing technology—more specifically, a laser application known as LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging—in this instance an airborne remote sensing technique utilizing a helicopter employing laser technology to penetrate the thick vegetation and forest canopy that overlies and enshrouds objects and structures. It is a way of ‘seeing through’ the forest to reveal things otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
LiDAR helped to produce a remarkable map of El Pilar, revealing unexposed Maya architectural and other human-made features that, although still hidden from the naked eye, fit an often-seen pattern. This new set of structures, however, was something new. Dubbed the “Citadel” because of its location perched atop a ridge with the appearance of fortifications, it contains concentric terracing and four ‘temples’, each about three to four meters high. Unlike the other structure complexes, it seems by placement to have been isolated from the rest of greater El Pilar.
“The complex stretches from south to north across nearly a kilometer of terrain dramatically shaped into the hill with evident design and purpose,” states Ford. “The enormous complex presents a mystery. What is its origin? When was it built? How was it used? Why was it isolated?”