Did a 15-Year-Old Actually Discover an Ancient Mayan City?

lost mayan city discovered
Radar images from the Canadian Space Agency shows what appears to be a man-made structure in the Yucatan Peninsula jungle. Canadian Space Agency

The news this week that a Canadian teenager discovered a lost Mayan city from his bedroom sounded too good to be true, and according to some archaeological experts it probably is.

William Gadoury, a 15-year-old from Quebec, used a star chart and Google Maps to locate what he believed to be a long-lost ancient Mayan city in a remote region on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Three years of research led Gadoury to link the positions of stars to the location of Mayan cities. After analyzing 22 Mayan star maps, the teenager spotted that one of the brightest stars in a constellation did not correspond with a known city. When he overlaid the star position onto Google Earth images he found several shapes in the landscape that appeared to be man-made.

Further collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency uncovered satellite images of what they believed to be 30 buildings and an 86-meter pyramid. Gadoury named the supposed city K’AAK ‘CHI,’ meaning Mouth of Fire.

The project received praise from NASA and was reported widely but now some archaeologists are claiming the shapes are not so exceptional. David Stuart, an archaeologist at the University of Texas at Austin, went as far as to dismiss the findings as “junk science.”

“This current news story of an ancient Maya city being discovered is false,” Stuart wrote on his Facebook page. “I was trying to ignore it (and the media inquiries I’ve been getting) but now…I feel I ought to say something.

“The whole thing is a mess—a terrible example of junk science hitting the internet in free-fall. The ancient Maya didn’t plot their ancient cities according to constellations.”

Stuart believes that the feature found on Google Earth is likely to be man-made due to its square shape, but suggests it is is more likely to be an abandoned cornfield rather than an ancient city.

Several other archaeologists have backed up Stuart’s claims but we won’t know for sure, of course, until someone treks into the jungle to find out.