Teen Discovers Lost Mayan City Using Ancient Star Maps

By George Dvorsky on at

Using an unprecedented technique of matching stars to the locations of temples on Earth, a 15-year-old Canadian student says he’s discovered a forgotten Maya city in Central America. Images from space suggest he may actually be onto something.

William Gadoury, a teen from Saint-Jean-de-Matha in Lanaudière, developed an interest in archaeology after the publication of the Maya calendar announcing the end of the world in 2012. After spending hours pouring over diagrams of constellations and maps of known Maya cities, he noticed that the two appeared to be linked; the brightest stars of the constellations overlaid perfectly with the locations of the largest Maya cities. As reported in The Telegraph, no other scientist had ever discovered such a correlation.

Here’s how he did it: After studying 22 different constellations, Gadoury noticed that they neatly 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. Using transparent overlays, Gadoury pinpointed a location deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Teen Discovers Lost Maya City Using Ancient Star Maps
Google Earth and satellite photos show what looks to be a cluster of structures. (Image: Google Earth, CSA)

“I did not understand why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands, and in the mountains,” explained Gadoury in Le Journal de Montreal. “They must have had another reason, and as they worshipped the stars, the idea came to me to verify my hypothesis. I was really surprised and excited when I realised that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities.”

Teen Discovers Lost Maya City Using Ancient Star Maps
Image: Canadian Space Agency

Taking this idea further, Gadoury contacted the Canadian Space Agency, who provided him with space-based images from NASA and JAXA. These satellite images revealed a batch of undeniably geometric structures hidden under the jungle canopy. Gadoury, along with Dr. Armand LaRocque, a remote sensing specialist from the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, believe it’s an ancient Maya pyramid surrounded by 30 smaller structures. The teen has named the city—which has yet to be explored and verified—K’aak Chi, which means “Mouth of Fire.” If confirmed, it would be among the largest Maya cities ever discovered.

Teen Discovers Lost Maya City Using Ancient Star Maps
William Gadoury, 15, explains his theory of the existence of an unknown Maya city before scientists at the Canadian Space Agency. (Image: Canadian Space Agency)

LaRocque said the use of satellite images, as well as the contribution of digital image processing, helped to confirm the possible existence of this forgotten city. “Geometric shapes, such as squares or rectangles, appeared in these images, forms that can hardly be attributed to natural phenomenon,” LaRocque said.

Daniel de Lisle of the Canadian Space Agency said he was fascinated by the depth of Gadoury’s research, and that linking the position of stars and the location of a lost city “is quite exceptional.” He told The Independent that “There are linear features that would suggest there is something underneath that big canopy,” adding that “There are enough items to suggest it could be a man-made structure.”

What needs to happen now is a ground expedition, but that won’t come cheap, nor will it be easy. Tthe location of the site is in one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of Mexico. And as LaRocque put it, “Expedition costs are horribly expensive.” Gadoury has contacted a team of Mexican archaeologists, and he’s hoping to take part in any subsequent mission to the site.

“It would be the culmination of my three years of work and the dream of my life,” said the cool teen.

So, uh, can someone get a Kickstarter going for this kid immediately please?

[Telegraph, Independent, Le Journal de Montreal]

Featured image: Google Earth/ESA