Search Marshall

Go

Photo Gallery

Text Size

NASA, University Scientists Uncover Lost Maya Ruins -- From Space
02.15.06
 
Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.
(Phone: 256.544.0034)

Photo release: 06-018


NASA archaeologist Dr. Tom Sever explores the Guatemalan jungle, which hides the ruins of one of the world's oldest and most mysterious civilizations –- the Maya. + Medium (512 x 768, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

NASA archaeologist Dr. Tom Sever explores the Guatemalan jungle, which hides the ruins of one of the world's oldest and most mysterious civilizations -- the Maya. Sever and his partners, archaeologist Dr. William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and researcher Daniel Irwin of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are using advanced imaging technology developed for the space program to uncover the ruins. High-resolution satellite imaging, which detects variations in the color of plant life around the ruins, has enabled the researchers to pinpoint the sites of several Maya settlements from space -- before taking a single step into the jungle. The research, primarily conducted at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville and the University of New Hampshire, is made possible by a partnership between NASA and the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History. (NASA/T. Sever)

A high-resolution, false-color image taken by the commercial Earth-observation satellite IKONOS. + Large (821 x 1016, 300 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 891, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

A high-resolution, false-color image taken by the commercial Earth-observation satellite IKONOS shows a Guatemalan "bajo," or a broad, lowland area that is often partially submerged during the rainy season. The yellowish areas, which denote discolorations of the dense forest canopy, also pinpoint ancient Maya building sites, as identified by researchers at NASA and the University of New Hampshire in Durham. Dr. Tom Sever and Daniel Irwin of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Dr. William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire are using high-resolution NASA satellite imagery to identify Maya settlements from space. The research, primarily conducted at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville and the University of New Hampshire, is made possible by a partnership between NASA and the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History. (Space Imaging Inc.)

In a side-by-side comparison, space-based images captured by two commercial Earth-observation satellites – the Landsat TM, left, and the IKONOS -- focus on the ancient ruins of Tikal, a Maya city deep in the Guatemalan rainforest. + Large (2223 x 1044, 300 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 338, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

In a side-by-side comparison, space-based images captured by two commercial Earth-observation satellites -- the Landsat TM, left, and the IKONOS -- focus on the ancient ruins of Tikal, a Maya city deep in the Guatemalan rainforest. The Landsat imaging system has a nominal resolution of 30 meters, while the IKONOS can capture a nominal resolution as close as 1 meter, a scale at which individual pyramids, pathways and small structures become apparent. Both use false-color imaging -- depicting subjects in colors that differ from human perception -- to help NASA and university scientists study patterns of jungle growth and floral discoloration that is enabling discovery of Maya ruins lost for more than 1,000 years. Ever-improving optics, imaging and satellite technologies play a key role in enabling scientists to conduct increasingly sophisticated Earth science activities around the world. (Landsat image: NASA; IKONOS image: Space Imaging Inc.)

Spotting ancient Maya ruins has been virtually impossible from the sky, where the dense Central American rainforest canopy hides all but a few majestic relics of this mysterious civilization. + Large (3000 x 1983, 300 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 476, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

Spotting ancient Maya ruins -- a challenge even on the ground -- has been virtually impossible from the sky, where the dense Central American rainforest canopy hides all but a few majestic relics of this mysterious civilization. Now, NASA archaeologist Dr. Tom Sever and scientist Daniel Irwin of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and archaeologist Dr. William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire in Durham are using advanced, space-based imaging technology to uncover the ruins. High-resolution satellite imaging, which detects variations in the color of plant life around the ruins, can pinpoint sites of Maya settlements from space. The research, primarily conducted at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville and the University of New Hampshire, is made possible by a partnership between NASA and the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History. (NASA/T. Sever)

Deep in the Guatemalan jungle, Sever, right, and Griffin study a crumbled stele. + Large (2221 x 1925, 300 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 624, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

Deep in the Guatemalan jungle, NASA archaeologist Dr. Tom Sever, right, and Rob Griffin, a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University in College Park, Pa., study a crumbled "stele," a stone pyramid used by the Maya to record information or display ornately carved art. Sever and Griffin found the stele -- and other Maya ruins hidden for more than 1,000 years -- during an expedition that relied on NASA remote-sensing technologies to pinpoint sites of ancient settlements. Sever and fellow researcher Daniel Irwin, both of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., teamed with archaeologist Dr. William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, to demonstrate how high-resolution satellite imaging can reveal variations in plant life indicative of ancient building sites. The research, primarily conducted at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville and the University of New Hampshire, is made possible by a partnership between NASA and the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History. (NASA/T. Sever)

NASA scientist Daniel Irwin, left, and archaeologist Dr. William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, explore a trench below an ancient Maya pyramid in Guatemala. + Large (861 x 1239, 300 ppi)
+ Medium (720 x 1036, 72 ppi)
+ Small (100 x 75, 72 ppi)

NASA scientist Daniel Irwin, left, and archaeologist Dr. William Saturno of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, explore a trench below an ancient Maya pyramid in Guatemala. Irwin and his partner, NASA archaeologist Dr. Tom Sever, both of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., are teaming with Saturno to help pinpoint the site of additional Maya ruins -- many of them lost beneath the dense Central American jungle for more than 1,000 years. They're using NASA high-resolution satellite imagery to identify variations in plant life that indicate ancient building sites. The research, primarily conducted at the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville and the University of New Hampshire, is made possible by a partnership between NASA and the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History. (NASA/T. Sever)


+ News Release