To the naked eye—and on archeologists’ maps—it looked like just another hill amid the undulating landscape of Tikal, the ancient Maya city-state in the lowlands of northern Guatemala. But when researchers zoomed in on an aerial image made with laser scanning equipment called LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), they could clearly see the shape of a human-made structure hidden under centuries of accumulated soil and vegetation.
The building—a pyramid, it turned out—was part of an ancient neighborhood that included a large enclosed courtyard fringed with smaller buildings. But these structures were different from any others known to exist at Tikal. They had the distinct shape, orientation, and other features of architecture typically found in Teotihuacan,