While some teenagers develop an interest in comic books or video games, a Canadian student’s fascination with the Mayans may have led him to discover a lost Mayan city.
William Gadoury, 15, from Saint-Jean-de-Matha in Quebec, made the discovery by comparing star charts with satellite images after theorizing that the locations of Mayan cities might correspond to stars in Mayan constellations.
He studied 22 Mayan star maps from ancient books and overlaid the star positions onto Google Earth images and noticed that they corresponded to the locations of 117 Mayan cities located in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
When looking at a 23rd constellation he was able to match two stars to known cities, but a third star remained unmatched.
With the help of satellite images provided by the Canadian Space Agency, he was able to pinpoint a location deep in the thick jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico where there appeared to be geometric structures hidden beneath the jungle canopy.
Gadoury collaborated with remote sensing expert Dr Armand LaRocque from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, who believes the teenager has found an 86 metre Mayan pyramid and 30 surrounding buildings.
The Canadian Space Agency has described his work as “exceptional” and presented him with a medal of merit, while teenager has named the city, K’aak Chi, which means “Mouth of Fire”.
If confirmed, it would be among the largest Mayan cities ever found. But experts have cast doubt on the discovery.
Thomas Garrison, an anthropologist at USC Dornsife and an expert in remote sensing, says these objects are relic corn fields.
"You have to be able to confirm what you are identifying in a satellite image or other type of scene," Garrison told Gizmodo.
"In this case, the rectilinear nature of the feature and the secondary vegetation growing back within it are clear signs of a relic milpa. I’d guess its been fallow for 10-15 years. This is obvious to anyone that has spent any time at all in the Maya lowlands.
"I hope that this young scholar will consider his pursuits at the university level so that his next discovery (and there are plenty to be made) will be a meaningful one."