A couple works to uncover the secrets of the lost Mayan civilization

An American couple uses cutting-edge technology to discover an ancient civilization that may hold the key to building the cities of the future.

Diane and Arlen Chase share a lifelong commitment to exploration. In 1985, the couple came to the ruins of Caracol, an ancient Mayan city in Belize that was first discovered in 1937 and includes the tallest structure in the country.

Diane Chase said when they arrived there was “no visible architecture” and everything looked like a simple hill. Since then, they have excavated over 400 buildings and uncovered hundreds of thousands of artifacts. At first they relied on traditional archaeological methods, but that all changed in 2009 when they were able to try out a breakthrough technology called LiDAR, an airborne laser mapping system that can see through trees and reveal hidden places. that would otherwise have taken decades to come to fruition. discover.

Adrian Chase, the couple’s son, gave a demonstration to CBS News, revealing how the technology can make the area look like nothing but bare dirt and give a sense of the different structures in the landscape.

Diana and Arlen Chase.

CBS Saturday morning

“When we saw the LiDAR results, it was phenomenal, because all of a sudden we had control of the space. We could see where the structures were and where they weren’t under those trees,” said Arlen Chase. “That’s equivalent, in our minds, to radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dating gives us control of time. LiDAR could give us control of space in the Maya region.”

Learning about the town of Caracol does more than teach about the past: The Chases said it could also inspire city planners today.

“If you look at how Caracol is built, it’s an incredibly planned town. I think we could learn something for the plan. It’s a pedestrian town, it’s a green town. The reservoirs are located in such a way that people have access to it, there are fields near almost every house. On top of that, almost anyone can get to the market,” explained Diane Chase.

The area is not entirely urban: there are also what Diane Chase described as suburban or residential sites. Some of these sites were discovered using LiDAR technology. In this excavation, the Chases are looking for architecture that can tell them how many people lived in the houses in the area. The digging is done by hand, Diane Chase said, the same way these homes were first built.

Almost as impressive as the ruins uncovered is the teamwork between the Chases. The two even finish each other’s sentences.

“We work very well together,” said Diane Chase. “Some people say ‘How can you work with your husband?’ or ‘How can you work with your wife?’, without knowing us, of course, and we make a good team.”


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