It’s both a benefit and a drawback that we can do so much of our shopping online. Never again will we know the pleasure of going into Target for a tube of toothpaste and leaving with more than $100 spent, some of which went towards incredible new gadgets we didn’t even know we could ever need until we saw them. However, the sheer amount of choice on the internet can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and compiled a list of genius gadgets you never knew you needed. And, the best par is that you can have each and every piece delivered to your door with the click of a button. You’ll thank us later.
Portable Blender – $34.99
Starting your day off with a homemade smoothie is always a good way to set your intentions for another 12 hours of healthy eating, but there are days when you just don’t have a chance to through a smoothie together before you head out. That’s where this portable smoothie maker comes in. With rechargeable batteries, you can throw together a wholesome drink in minutes, no matter where you are, making this the perfect tool for mothers and travelers alike.
Comfy Toes Mattress Warmer – $27.00
Nothing is worse than chronically cold toes in the winter. No matter how fluffy your slippers or how thick your socks, there are some days where your feet just won’t get warm, much to the detriment of the person who has to share a bed with you. However, this warming pad for your mattress will spell the end of cold feet, without making it so that the bed is too hot to bear.
Self-Watering Indoor Planter – $19.99
The smell of fresh herbs perfuming your kitchen is one of the more pleasant ways to live. Unfortunately, there’s a large segment of us who can’t manage to keep a plant alive, no matter how hard we try. That’s where these Mason Self-Watering Herbs pots come in. You can create a lush countertop garden that will water itself exactly the right amount, offering you an abundance of flavor, without the pitfalls that gardening usually entails.
Sunrise Alarm Clock – $49.99
Now that we live according to the whims of artificial lighting, many of us don’t realize just how important a role light plays in our sleep cycle and circadian rhythms. Of course, living in a city means tons of light pollution, even at night. The Phillips Sunrise Alarm Clock makes it so that you don’t have to choose between blackout curtains and a natural wake up. The light will gradually rise beginning a half an hour before the wake-up time set.
Humidifier With Water Bottle Adapter – $29.99
There’s nothing like the dry winter air to ruin your skin and your sinuses. Rather than suffering the effects of dehydrated skin, you can use a humidifier to infuse some much-needed moisture in the air. What makes this humidifier even more genius, however, is that it can convert any bottle of water into a humidifier. This way, you don’t have to worry about being parched every time you travel to cooler climates.
Indian Healing Clay – $10.95
You may have thought the biggest trend in skincare was sheet masks, but while those may be great for showing your commitment to hydration even while traveling, Indian Healing Clay is a real game changer. Made of pure Bentonite clay, an ingredient that’s used in many other skincare products. The magical clay helps suck all of the dirt out of your pores, drying out any blemish-causing gunk that may have gotten stuck in there.
Bamboo Air Purifier – $9.98
Nobody likes a smelly house, but sometimes, odors can be unavoidable. Rather than shelling out all of your hard earned cash for bulky ventilation systems, you can find cheap and efficient odor absorbers like this one. The Phaii absorbers are filled with activated charcoal made from bamboo, which is one of the most absorbent materials out there. The company sells two different sizes, which makes it possible to deodorize small spaces like a gym bag or car.
Insulated Bento Box – $39.50
Bento boxes are still catching on in the US, but now that these insulated varieties are available, we can predict that they’ll soon take over school cafeterias. Unlike a regular lunchbox, Bento boxes keep each dish separate until you’re ready to eat them. However, most of the boxes available were more like cute Tupperware boxes. These pull double duty and serve as both a storage container and an insulated lunch carrier all in one simple gadget.
Silicone Macaron Mat – $13.95
Colorful French macarons have been all the rage for the past couple of years, but getting those perfect little meringue rounds can be maddeningly difficult when you’re trying to make the on your own. If you don’t have expert piping skills, you can make the process of macaron baking just a little bit easier with a silicone macaron mat. This one is especially useful because you have a choice of circle size, while still being able to use it for other projects.
Countertop Composter -$18.99
The idea of letting your vegetable scraps decompose on your counter might not sound that appealing, especially when you think about the smell, but the Utopia Stainless Steal Countertop Compost bucket brings composting into the 21st century. The bucket itself seals tightly with a lid, keeping your compost safe, but this container takes it a step further. There’s also an activated charcoal filter in the lid, which will prevent your scraps from stinking up the house while it awaits transport to a bigger pile.
Greek Yogurt Maker – $31.99
Greek yogurt may be an excellent breakfast choice, but at several dollars per container, sometimes we start to wonder if it’s really worth the expense. Once we got our hands on this new Greek yogurt maker from Dash, there’s a chance we may never buy yogurt again. The machine is super small and light, meaning even those with limited space can use it. Within a matter of hours, you’ll have a large batch of yogurt to enjoy.
Whiteboard Stickers – $29.74
For those of you who have toddlers, you probably know the pain of blinking for half a second only to see that in that short amount of time, your kid has created a new masterpiece on the wall. Now you can save yourself the trouble of scrubbing crayon off the paint for the fifth time this week with these whiteboard stickers. You can turn any stretch of wall into a functioning whiteboard. Even better, Think Board offers these in various sizes.
Solar Powered Phone Battery Charger – $29.99
How humans managed to exist for so many thousands of years without the ability to be in constant communication with the world is baffling when we considered how tied we are to our phones. Woe be to the person who forgets to charge their spare battery pack before heading out for the day. Of course, this Solar Power charging pack mean you can have battery wherever you have sunlight. This particular model even includes a flashlight!
Mini Wifi Photo Printer – $59.99
Being able to take photos just about any time we want is one of the greatest features of living in the digital age, but when your life lives on the internet, your home can easily fall flat. Kodak wants to bring real pictures back into our lives, but without the hassle of a large amount of equipment. Their mobile printer is just barely bigger than your phone and will let you print pictures over wifi minutes after you’ve taken them.
Healing Hot Chocolate – $14.79
A cup of hot cocoa is always a soothing treat, but Four Sigmatic has proven itself to be one of the big innovators of the last year. Inspired by the healing properties of mushrooms, the founders of the company have worked to integrate their beneficial properties into a variety of products. Their most delicious is hands down their hot cocoa mix that’s infused with reiki mushrooms. With calming properties, it’s certainly a guilt-free treat.
Electric Wine Bottle Opener – $19.99
This is the best innovation in wine bottling opening since the rabbit debuted all those years ago. Rather than fighting with old corks and unstable corkscrews, you can let this electrical wine bottle opener do the job for you. It’s super simple to use and much safer than its predecessors. Even better, you won’t have to worry about cords getting in the way as you effortlessly pull the corks out of the bottle.
Shower Head Water Filter – $34.99
Say goodbye to hard water ruining your hair. Anyone who’s ever lived in a place with mineral-rich water knows just how much it can affect your hair and skin. Rather than shelling out for expensive products that won’t do anything to address the cause, you can buy a water filter for your shower filter. These are simple to install and make a world of difference on hair that’s had its fill of hard water for far too long.
Motion Activated Toilet Light – $13.98
Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night shouldn’t be a fear-inducing task, but it usually involves having to make a decision about just how much you want to wake up in order to end up in the right place. While regular nightlights can solve some of the problems, this motion-activated toilet light will save you the hassle of having to find a switch. Plus, it illuminates the toilet itself, rather than the wall.
Portable Oven – $44.95
For people who travel often, having a portable oven might be a useful tool. One might think that it would just be easier to eat out, but especially for people with strict dietary concerns, it’s more important to be able to prepare food on your own. This Hot Logic model is even better than an easy bake, as the lightweight container makes this a cinch to carry with you wherever you may be going, and can heat an entire meal.
Leak-Proof Thermos – $18.97
Put down your leaky Starbucks cup and order one of these thermoses instead. The two biggest annoyances that come with reusable hot cups are 1. how leaky they are and 2. how bad they are at actually keeping your drink warm. However, a leak-proof thermos is an absolute must if the vessel is any good at keeping your liquids at their optimal temperatures. We especially like this cute pink model. More importantly, though, it really works.
Countertop Air Fryer – $54.99
We have seen the future, and it definitely involves air fryers. While we admit that there are sometimes when only the greasiest of fried potatoes will suffice, for regular use, the air fryer is the number one kitchen appliance we didn’t know we needed. When frying with hot air in an enclosed space instead of with hot oil, you don’t have to worry about being burned by bubbling grease. The GoWise USA Air Fryer is also much easier to clean.
Pancake Printer – $256.86
As if brunch wasn’t exciting enough already, this computer powered pancake bot is probably one of the coolest pieces of technology we’ve ever seen. There’s no more worrying about ruining your pancakes upon flipping them. Plus, the bot makes it so that you don’t need to have any artistic expertise in order to have pancakes in creative shapes. Especially when you have picky children to feed, this pancake robot maker is definitely a must-have gadget.
Robotic Floor Sweeper – $28.88
Although we know that a tidy home equals a tidy mind, there really is nothing worse than coming home after a long day and scrubbing the floors. Luckily, this RoboMop Robotic Floor Sweeper will do the job, so you don’t have to. This automatic sweeper will make its way around your house and can do up to 1.5 hours of cleaning on full charge. All you need to do is sit back, relax, and watch the magic happen right before your eyes.
Automatic Pot Stirrer – $57.78
If you’re the kind of person that likes to cook up a storm in the kitchen, you’ll know that stirring can get pretty tedious. When making a sauce from scratch or simply making a family favorite, you have to continuously stir your pot and keep it moving. However, unless you go to the gym and work your arms every single day, there’s no way anyone can do this. That’s why the SAKI Automatic Pot Mixer Auto-Stirrer will be your new best friend.
Bluetooth Smart Lock – $59.97
With so many things to take care of and keep safe in our lives, we just have too many passwords and combinations to remember. We have keys, we have numbers, we have facial recognition, and everything seems way too complicated. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. The Bluetooth Smart Lock keeps your belongings safe while making them easier than ever to access. All you need is your cell phone, and a Bluetooth connection. With this, you can open up the padlock within seconds.
Drink Savers Bottle Caps – $11.95
There’s nothing better than settling down on the couch with a cold one, but have you ever had a little post-work nap and completely forgotten about your open bottle? When drinks are left out in the open, they go flat and stale, and most of the time you just chuck it down the drain. But what if you didn’t have to do that? The Drink Savers Bottle Caps allow you to cover your bottles to keep your drink fresh.
Travel Foot Rest
Traveling can be a tiring business, even though you’re sat down for the majority of it. Being cooped up on uncomfortable chairs and stuck between two complete strangers can often make you feel as though you have no room. As if that wasn’t enough, you may find yourself with leg and joint pain because you can’t give your body the stretch it deserves. If this is you, you might find yourself benefitting from the Travel Foot Rest Hammock.
Mug Warmer & Mug Set – $49.99
When you’re at work, having a hot coffee or tea by your side is a must. The smell and the taste of the caffeine keeps you going, and it gives you a little respite from a busy day in the office. Yet, these hot drinks can quickly get cold if you don’t drink them fast enough. Instead of letting the coffee flow down the drain or popping it back in the microwave to warm up, you can simply use this COSORI Coffee Mug Warmer.
Digital Tape Measure $30.80
If you like to think of yourself as a dab hand at DIY, you’re probably an expert at using a tape measure. Yet, with a few lines and numbers, it’s often hard to get an accurate reading on these things. Instead of hoping for the best, this eTape16 Digital Tape Measure can give you a specific reading without all of the extra fuss. This way, you can make sure your new couch actually fits through your front door…
Himalayan Salt Night Light – $13.99
Himalayan salt has often been recognized for its purifying properties, and many people swear by it for removing toxins for the air and looking pretty in the corner of their room. However, if you don’t have the space for a giant salt lamp in your room, this night light may do the trick. The Unilamp Salt Lamp plugs into a normal outlet and provides a soft and purifying light for those who need a bit of extra support during the night.
Bluetooth Headphones – $45.99
There are some people in this world who struggle to do anything without music in the background. They find the silence deafening, and they attach themselves to headphones to combat this. Unfortunately, the wires of these headphones get tangled around anything and everything, and they can be difficult to manage if you’re running or constantly on the go. That’s why these TaoTronics Bluetooth Headphones will be your new best friend. There are no wires involved with these headphones.
Dog Towel and Dryer – $78.95
If you have a dog, you’ll know that washing and drying them can be a challenge. Most dogs do not want to get in the bath, and drying them is even more difficult. They shake all over the place, and they leave puddles wherever they go. But what if you could stop this from happening? The Dog Gone Smart Pet Products Zip and Dri Drier wraps up your dog and dries them quicker than most other towels on the market.
Sushi Roller – $12.99
There’s a reason sushi masters need to spend upwards of a decade perfecting the art of sushi. As simple as it may look, rolling sushi is anything but. The Sushi Bazooka not only has a fun name, but it actually turns sushi into a simple meal. Sushi parties are always fun for their interactive quality, but the Bazooka only makes them better since there’s no stress about rolling the sushi tight enough or well enough.
Automatic Ice Cream Maker – $82.99
There’s a good reason we all scream for ice cream. It’s one of the most delicious desserts known to man. However, there’s no reason that homemade ice cream should be inaccessible to the average person. With this Cuisinart automatic ice cream maker, there’s no need to spend all of your energy trying to get out a measly pint. There’s also no need to remember to freeze the bowl, this little gadget does all of the work for you.
Mason Jar Fermentation Kit – $49.99
We may live in an age where it’s easy to find almost anything we want prepackaged and delivered to our own door, but that’s what makes it so satisfying to put the effort in to create our own fermented vegetables. Masontops Fermentation Kit makes it even easier by giving you all the tools you need to safely ferment a wide variety of vegetables, minus the jars themselves. You’ll never let vegetables go bad again!
Archeologists have been fascinated by the Mayans and have wondered how they disappeared so abruptly. Now, new laser technology is unlocking many secrets that have been kept hidden for thousands of years…
Architects of Their Own Demise?
Researchers and historians alike have regarded the Mayan people as some of the most important architects of the last few thousand years. Archeologists are constantly unearthing stone structures in Central America, including pyramids, sports arenas, and palaces, to name a few. And yet, new technology is leading to the discovery of many more…
A Mysterious Past
Truth be told, the many discoveries that archeologists have made about the Mayan culture are only fragmented pieces of a much larger picture. There is still a long way to go to complete this puzzle. One of the biggest factors in obstructing researchers’ progress is time itself. An entire jungle has grown over where the empire once was and any kind of survey, whether it be in the air or on land, has proven to be inconclusive of any further discovery of what lies beneath…
Truth Lies Beneath the Surface
It has taken many years for researchers to simply scratch the surface of the Mayan civilization and its rich history. Through the structures that were previously discovered, archeologists were able to draw some conclusions about how the Mayans lived. However, the technology at their disposal was somewhat limited in the past, which has led modern researchers to believe that there is so much more that lies beneath the surface of the Yucatan jungle. Now, an opportunity has presented itself…
Preserving the Culture
Not only do foreign organizations recognize the significance of these potential discoveries. Researchers reached the early stages of a project that they expected would take three years to complete. PACUNAM, which is an organization located in Guatemala, is determined to preserve the cultural heritage of this majestic part of the world, including its Mayan history. When everything is said and done, the organization would have explored more than 5,000 square miles of the Guatemalan jungles. But they face some big challenges…
Nothing New to Looters
PACUNAM has a number of short term and long term goals. One of the long term ones is to ensure that all of the sites it explores are preserved and maintained. Unfortunately, looters have created a number of pits over time. “Many of these new sites are only new to us; they are not new to looters,” Marianne Hernandez said, who is the president of PACUNAM. Not to mention the fact that 10 percent of Guatemala’s forests are being cut down every year.
One Giant Leap
While archeology is usually mistaken for purely being about digging to find discoveries below the ground, it’s never been that simple. And it’s certainly not that simple anymore with the latest technology. LiDAR, which is an acronym for Light Imaging Detection and Ranging, is able to penetrate through many layers of earth and trees to find what’s hiding underneath. This begs the question: in what way has LiDAR revolutionized the way that archeology works and how does it pertain to this particular discovery?
Time for Radar Tech
The name LiDAR is enough to indicate what it’s purpose actually is. Basically, it is a type of radar that can be installed onto a piece of aircraft, like a plane or a helicopter. When the aircraft in question is gliding over a specific destination, LiDAR shoots hundreds of thousands of laser pulses per second. “Every time one of those lasers hits a point of resistance, it stops and sends back a measurement to the plane,” Thomas Garrison said, who is an archeologist at Ithaca College.
A Map of the Jungle
After LiDAR collects the data from below, it is able to convert it into something remarkable – a 3D map depicting the original landscape under all of the trees and earth. The way this works is actually pretty simple. It sends pulses to the forest floor and eliminates all of the features from the jungle. It would be as if a photoshop expert was able to crop all of the trees out of a map. But how did they use it in this investigation?
Using LiDAR Technology in Guatemala
It was just a matter of time before researchers took the LiDAR tech and tried it out on the forest beds of northern Guatemala. With 770 square miles of land that hadn’t been properly explored for thousands of years, this was a huge opportunity. “This is a gamechanger,” Thomas Garrison said. He believes that it has completely changed “the base level at which we do Maya archaeology.” One discovery that stood out to the team was actually made many years beforehand…
Discovering the Fortress
Garrison claimed that his team had already entered a Mayan fortress before he had even heard of LiDAR technology. The catch was that they didn’t recognize it due to all of the trees and earth surrounding it. “There was this fortress in our area,” he said. “In 2010, I was within 150 feet of this thing.” Seeing that the forest had camouflaged the entire fortress, they didn’t even know they had stepped foot in one. And that wasn’t all they found…
Prepared for Battle
One thing that the archeologists were fascinated about by the scans was the many other fortresses and walls that they discovered. They also found moats, which suggested that the Mayans had been involved in many more wars than had been previously anticipated. Moreover, they had the resources to protect themselves from enemies. Thanks to the LiDAR, Garrison now had a new insight into how well prepared for battle the Mayans were. And yet this was just one of many key insights they made about the newly discovered Mayan structures…
Living in High Places
One interesting insight that was made was that many of the Mayan people lived in high places. Literally, they lived high above the ground in stone platform structures that they spent many years building. Diane Davies, who is a specialist in Mayan history is thoroughly impressed. “To have such a large number of people living at such a high level for such a long period of time,” she said. “It really proves the fact that these people were highly developed, and also quite environmentally conscientious.”
So Many Structures
It didn’t take too long before the LiDAR technology unveiled no less than 60,000 Mayan structures. It wasn’t just the number of structures that took the researchers by surprise, but also the close attention to detail that the people had to make such an intricate complex. No previous discovery had emphasized just how advanced the Mayan people actually were. It also suggested that there might be other cities like this one that had not been discovered yet. Also, the population might’ve been much bigger…
More Mayans Than Expected
Not only was the Mayan population expected to be much greater after these findings, but one researcher was able to give a clear estimation. “The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” Thomas Garrison said. Based on the information he had put together, Garrison is convinced that the population was more like 20 million, as opposed to the previous estimations of 1-2 million. But why?
Many More Farms
There is no denying that the kind of structures that archeologists have recently discovered has shifted their estimations of how many Mayan people there actually were. One of the most important purposes that these structures seemed to be used for was for farming. In fact, there were a number of signs that suggested that this was the case. The most obvious one being that numerous structures resemble irrigation and terracing systems. It was clear that the Mayans knew how to be self-sufficient and provide in bulk.
While the LiDAR technology didn’t exactly provide any more information surrounding the way in which the Mayan people farmed, it certainly didn’t contradict any of the previous findings researchers had previously made surrounding this aspect of Mayan life. Like any great empire that came before or after, farming was one of the most important activities for the Mayan people. Unlike many other civilizations though, they didn’t use beasts to do the work for them. As a result, they would do a lot of the heavy lifting themselves.
An Absolute Gamechanger
There was no denying that these discoveries shook the world of archeology to its very foundations. The fact that there was evidence that the Mayans were using highways that were hundreds of miles long was a staggering finding. It appeared that they would transport huge pieces of stone down these highways to their desired destinations. This opened up how researchers perceived the way civilizations were generally created. One researcher was able to hit home just how important this is…
They Moved Mountains
Tulane University archeologist Marcello Canuto was heavily involved in the project. According to him, recent discoveries prove that this was more than just an engineering marvel – it was a small miracle. The fact that the Mayan people were able to move such heavy objects proved how strong they were. “This was a civilization that was literally moving mountains,” he said. “We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilizations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilizations go to die.”
Uncovering Other Civilizations
While the following is unsurprising, Canuto deduced from his findings that researchers could trace the origins of the first ancient civilizations back to the jungle. After also using LiDAR technology on Angkor Wat’s ancient ruins, this only reaffirmed the researchers’ theories. “But with the new LiDAR-based evidence from Central America and [Cambodia’s] Angkor Wat,” Canuto said, “we now have to consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and made their way outward from there.”
Following the LiDAR
It is clear that LiDAR technology is at the forefront of ushering archeology into a new era. There is no telling what other awesome discoveries it could help make. Not only are the inventors of LiDAR extremely proud of their creation, but those who are able to use it have found a new lease of life in what they do. This technology can now be used throughout the world’s remaining jungles to uncover all sorts of hidden secrets. Who knows what the Congo Basin and the Amazon might be hiding?
Many More Purposes
Researchers like Thomas Garrison are excited about the possibilities that LiDAR could bring. However, he firmly believes that people from a variety of other industries will benefit from the technology. As a matter of fact, he has only used a few of the features that LiDAR possesses. “We don’t use about 92% of the LiDAR data. We just throw it out to make our maps,” he said. “But there is incredibly valuable information in that forestry data.”
Saving the World’s Forest
It is clear that the way that LiDAR is able to closely examine the conditions of jungle and forests is one of its core benefits. This is bound to provide a number of benefits from an environmental point of view, such as preventing forest fires. “You’re just seeing the archaeology part because that’s what we focused on,” Thomas Garrison said. “But that data can be used to determine how jungles recover from forest fires, what’s the carbon footprint.” And there are others who are bound to be happy…
It Brought Archeologists to Tears
From a sentimental point of a view, the findings have certainly made many archeologists extremely emotional, especially after spending so much of their lives trying to unearth the truth about the Mayan people. “I think this is one of the greatest advances in over 150 years of Maya archaeology,” Brown University’s Professor of Archeology and Anthropology Stephen Huston said. “I know it sounds hyperbolic but when I saw the [LiDAR] imagery, it did bring me to tears.”
Still More Work to Do
Despite this incredible breakthrough, many researchers believe there is still a long way to go before they fully understand LiDAR’s technology and the data it has collected. “Lidar is revolutionizing archeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy,” Francisco Estrada-Belli said, who is an archeologist at Tulane University. “We’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.” With that said, there are plenty of obstacles that current and future LiDAR uses will face…
Despite its success, there is one big problem that LiDAR brings when it comes to uncovering Mayan ruins. “The tricky thing about LiDAR is that it gives us an image of 3,000 years of Mayan civilization in the area, compressed,” Thomas Garrison said. “It’s a great problem to have though, because it gives us new challenges as we learn more about the Maya.” And yet, that is only scratching the surface of the problems that archeologists could potentially face moving forward…
Lots of Danger
While there was no denying that this was a big breakthrough, there were plenty of dangers that lay ahead for the archeologists. LiDAR was only the first step of a much bigger problem. Engineer Albert Yu-Min Lin still needed to explore all of the jungles to make sure that all of the data was correct. In order to do this, they needed to evade scorpions, poisonous snakes and killer bees. This certainly was not an easy task…
Three Key Steps
In order to understand how LiDAR technology works, look no further than the following image. One can break down the process into three clear steps. The first step sees the plane shooting lasers to the ground. Then the second step sees the lasers reflect from the highest surfaces, allowing some to travel through gaps to lower ones. And the third and final step sees the technology converting the lasers into topographic scans. And that is how the maps are formed.
Discovering the Lowlands
Another benefit of LiDAR technology is its potential to reveal where the success of Mayans might have actually come from. Mapping from the lasers showed that some of the areas below were much bigger and more intricate in construction than a lot of the others. One specific area that has caught the eye of a number of researchers is the lowlands. “These features are so extensive that it makes us start to wonder,” Thomas Garrison said. “Is this the breadbasket of the Maya lowlands?”
So Many Descendants
One important detail in light of these findings is the nature of Mayan life in the present day. Despite its ancient empire ending long ago, there are still plenty of people living today who descended from the Mayans. Moreover, they still live in this part of the world. Out of Guatemala’s 14.3 million people, it is believed that 42% of them descended from the ancient Mayans. Also, there are 20-30 million Mayan descendants living in neighboring countries such as Belize, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
There is no denying that the Mayans performed some sort of miracle from what they built. When you consider the fact that they had no wheels, no livestock and no metal tools, it’s amazing how much they were able to achieve. Moreover, they lived in very poor conditions during this transitionary period. Their homes were often surrounded by swamps and they’d usually suffer from heavy storms. This did not stop them from persevering though and creating a megacity.
More Than One City
Outsiders might be forgiven if they assumed that the Mayan civilization could trace its roots back to one city. However, that simply wasn’t the case and this ancient empire had prosperous communities in a variety of cities across ancient Guatemala. Each city had its own government, meaning that there were plenty of times in Mayan history when these cities would wage war against each other. Some of the most famous cities include the likes of Tikal, El Mirador, and Caracol, to name a few.
Preserving El Mirador
While the Mayan empire came to an end around 900 A.D., the city of El Mirador had its golden years long before that. Having been abandoned and eventually reoccupied, the ancient city had its final abandonment around the same time of the Mayan’s mysterious disappearance. Several thousand structures remain, which are believed to have formed some of the earliest political centers in Mesoamerica. Due to its remote location, El Mirador isn’t the most popular Mayan tourist site, but the government is working hard to conserve its structures.
The Iconic Tikal
Out of all of the Mayan cities, Tikal is arguably the most iconic of them all. It is one of the largest archeological sites in Mayan history and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. At one point, Tikal was home to one of the Mayans most powerful kingdoms. The rulers of the city dominated much of the Mayan region and were the biggest political and military power for hundreds of years. Many of the tombs of Tikal’s rulers have been discovered, as well as numerous temples and palaces.
As previously mentioned, many Mayan descendants can be found in neighboring countries such as Mexico and Belize. Well, it turns out that one of the most important archeological sites can be found in the Cayo District of Belize – specifically, Caracol. Located 500 meters above sea level, Caracol was one of the most important political centers of the Mayan lowlands and covered an area that is much larger than modern-day Belize City. But what have archeologists actually found in Caracol?
In 2009, archeologists used LiDAR technology to cover 80 square miles of Caracol. “Everybody told us we were nuts, that it wouldn’t work,” co-director Arlen Chase said. “Caracol is over 200 square kilometers. Trying to convince our colleagues of that in 2009 was impossible without the LiDAR.” Results from the technology showed that the city was much bigger than they had previously anticipated. A number of structures hidden underneath the jungle, as well as causeways, were discovered. Another fine example of the Mayan people’s engineering capabilities.
Ever since these research teams perused the lowlands to cross-reference their results from LiDAR technology, they have made some pretty amazing observations. Take this photo for example, which shows the top of a temple that has been buried by natural forces over time. It is located in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in El Petén and there are believed to be thousands of others just like this. This begs the question though: why so many? And what were they used for?
What Were They Used For?
It’s not that difficult to work out what the Mayan temples were used for. As religion was such an important element of their lives, Mayans built these towering structures primarily for ritualistic purposes. These temples usually had stone platforms and altars inside. Usually, an image of the god of the city would be painted on the wall behind the platform. Speaking of gods, there was a certain individual who was called upon to act as a conduit between the heavenly bodies and the mere mortals…
It’s a tradition that can be seen in many cultures throughout human history, and yet it also applied to the Mayan people. Kings weren’t just a figure of authority or a fancy individual to look at. The Mayans also believed that they were holy figures that acted as a bridge between the people and the gods. It was widely believed that if there were no kings, then the connection between the gods would be broken forever. This is why they seemed to be involved in all of the rituals…
A Place to Carry Out Justice
If there was one thing that the Mayan people were passionate about, it was carrying out justice. Those who committed crimes would often be sacrificed in front of a live audience. Not only were they made an example of in front of their people, but it was also seen as an offering to the gods. The death penalty applied to a variety of crimes. However, there were some punishments that weren’t as severe. Some criminals would simply get fined. Others might get sent to slavery or have their hair cut off.
Making the Ultimate Sacrifice for Heaven
It was not just the kings who were able to communicate with the gods. Priests also had high authority, although kings would usually have the final say when it came to spiritual matters. For Mayans, heaven was the ultimate destination to strive towards and certain means such as sacrifice and dying at childbirth were seen as ideal ways to get there. Inside the temples, there were altars and stone platforms that priests would use to make sacrifices.
One of Many Powerful Civilizations
Of course, any historian knows that the Mayans weren’t the only powerful civilization in the Mesoamerican region over the last few thousand years. The Aztec and Inca civilizations were also forces to be reckoned with, having their own impressive engineering abilities and rich cultures. And yet, there was something about the way that Mayan kings were treated that seems to make them stand out from the rest. According to records and artifacts, the slaves would carry royal figures around so that they wouldn’t have to walk.
A Day in the Life Of…
Mayan life wasn’t all about living in fear of the king and witnessing offerings to the gods. The Mayan people also had relatively enjoyable lives if they adhered to the rules. Depending on your class, you would probably have a specific kind of job. Peasants would usually work in farms, while others would manufacture tools. Women would typically be expected to clean, cook, and weave the family’s clothes. Mayans also took dancing very seriously, with a number of dances still being performed until this very day.
Difference in Accomodation
It should not come as too much of a surprise that Mayan homes varied in size and structure depending on who they were built for. If you were a peasant or a commoner with a modest job, you would probably have no choice but to build your own home. These would usually be built our of mud and would probably have one room. Then there were noblemen or royal figures who unsurprisingly, would live in the stone palaces.
Differences in Clothing
You could also tell the status of a Mayan individual depending on what they wore. Clothes and jewelry were a way of showing off to those around you. If you were wealthy, you would probably be sporting some kind of feather headgear and animal skin. Commoners, on the other hand, would most likely wear simple attire such as loincloth and long skirts. Both men and women would wear long cloaks called “mantas.” Wearing big hats was also a way of proving that you were of high status.
Historians and locals have managed to trace back exactly the kind of foods that the ancient Mayan people would eat. It is no secret that these people were huge fans of chocolate, believing that it was a gift from the gods. As a result, they introduced cacao to the world. That’s not all though. The Mayan people also introduced the world to a variety of fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, black beans, papayas, and tomatoes, to name a few.
An Absolute Goldmine
It’s not just LiDAR technology that has led to some truly remarkable discoveries from the ancient Mayan world in recent times. A team of researchers found a cave full of lost treasure hidden under Mayan ruins in Yucatan’s Chichen Itza. The cave is believed to have 150 artifacts, which includes vases, plates with the faces of ancient gods adorned on them, and incense burners, to name a few. Amazingly though, there is believed to be a lot more treasure in this part of the world…
More Where That Came From…
That collection of artifacts is believed to be one of seven sacred chambers that can be found in a collection of tunnels known as the Balamku. Although INAH claims that this treasure hasn’t been touched for 1,000 years, one researcher would beg to differ. Back in 1966, archeologist Victor Segovia Pinto discovered the cave and wrote about it. However, he decided not to excavate it and asked locals to seal the entrance off for good. Five decades later, the treasure was finally found.
It Was Bigger Than England
In order to fully understand how big the Mayan empire was at the height of its powers, it is useful to compare it to a region we are more familiar with. Between the years of 250 and 900 AD, the Mayan people live in an area that was twice the size of medieval England. What makes the comparison even more staggering is the fact that the Mayan population density was much greater than that of England’s at the time.
Naturally, researchers can not determine what they could stumble across next. However, if the recent discoveries are anything to go by, it is clear that they are more confident than ever about finding new things related to the Mayan civilization. PACUNAM aims to carry on the research for the next few years, at least. In tandem with archeologists from around the world, these researchers will not rest until every square inch of the Guatemalan forests is covered. But have they managed to answer the following question?
Where Did They Go?
One question that LiDAR technology hasn’t been able to answer yet about the Mayan people is what could have happened to them. Although the ancient empire’s origins can be traced back to 1,000 B.C. and carrying on all the way up to 900 A.D., their era came to an abrupt end around this time. While people are still theorizing until this very day what exactly happened to them, it is clear that archeologists are closer than ever to unlocking the secrets to this mystery.