Google Earth has been around for over 10 years now, and needless to say, throughout its lifetime the application has been the number one source of satellite imagery for countless people around the globe. However, for 15-year-old William Gadoury – a 10th-grade student at Académie Antoine-Manseau in Joilette, Canada – Google Earth might prove to be the tool of discovery for a lost 4,600-year-old Mayan city in Mexico.
William Gadoury gained an interest in the Mayan civilization roughly four years ago in 2012, trying to understand how the ancient civilization used to build structures and cities. He was intrigued by the fact that “the Mayans were extremely good builders, but they often built in places that made little practical sense – far from rivers, far from fertile areas”. He found this “strange for a civilization that was so intelligent”, so he turned to astronomy in order to try and find the answer as to why the Mayans built their cities as they did. Some 4,000-years ago Mayans were very good at astronomy, and after studying 22 Mayan constellations, William Gadoury has discovered that these constellations matched the placement of 117 known Mayan cities. However, a 23rd constellation was incomplete, which led the student to the realization that one city has yet to be discovered. He linked the known cities and constellations, and then took his study to Google Earth, looking for unusual, human-made structures / shapes within the dense jungle canopy that would account for the 23rd constellation. Interestingly enough, he found what looks to be a rectangular structure / shape that he believes might be the platforms of Mayan pyramids. However, he needed more conclusive evidence.
Back in 2014 at the age of 13, Gadoury won first place at his school science fair, and won a trip to a Canadian Space Agency (CSA) international conference in Quebec City. The agency’s officials were very impressed by Gadoury’s findings and the student was able to acquire higher-resolution images captured by the agency’s RADARSAT-2 satellite. The images have reconfirmed Gadoury’s findings, however, a ground search would be required in order to truly confirm whether the linear shape within the dense vegetation has formed due to hidden man-made structures under the jungle canopy. CSA project officer Daniel Delisle adds: “we are pretty sure that there are some features hidden there … I think there’s a high potential of finding a city”. On the other hand, not all archeologists have been persuaded by Gadoury’s findings. Ivan Sprajc, a Slovenian archeologist and Mayan expert says that while Gadoury’s efforts are commendable, the finding has “no support”. He added that “The rectangle on the published image, supposedly a Maya site, is but an old milpa or cultivation plot, abandoned years ago, but definitely not centuries ago”. Needless to say, the story has yet to be concluded and more studies need to be done before researchers determine whether or not Gadoury’s findings are as exciting as they seem at first glance.