Man at His Best

Kid (Possibly) Discovers Forgotten Mayan City

Fifteen-year-old William Gadoury puts Google Earth to good use and makes an unexpected find.

BY Jason S Ganesan | May 11, 2016 | Technology

The Illuminerdy

With other 15-year-olds Snapchatting or reacting to stuff on YouTube (or whatever it is they are into these days), William Gadoury just straight up went and found a forgotten Mayan city. With the help of Google Earth, no less.

The teenage Québécois had a hunch that Mayans lined up their towns and cities according to major star constellations, and approached the Canadian Space Agency, who provided him with satellite images from Nasa and the Japanese Space Agency.

Gadoury then painstakingly went through 22 different star constellations and the corresponding 117 known Mayan cities dotted around Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But one star in the 23rd constellation had no match.

Canadian Space Agency

Superimposing the specific satellite images onto Google Maps and Google Earth, Gadoury and Daniel De Lisle, a project officer at the Canadian Space Agency, found a linear structure that could very well be a Mayan pyramid.

They also found a bunch of smaller structures, which could be a street network in the city Gadoury has named K'aak Chi, or ‘Mouth of Fire’. Because why not pile on the awesome?

Canadian Space Agency

However, a number of (significantly older) scientists are pouring scorn on the feel-good story of the year. Anthropologists Thomas Garrison and David Stuart told Gizmodo that the structure Gadoury found is indeed man-made, but is most probably just a fallow milpa, or cornfield.

Gadoury will nevertheless publish his findings in a scientific journal, and present them at an archaeological conference in Brazil later this year. He will also be invited to take part in planned excavations of the site.

Whether Mouth of Fire or boring milpa, De Lisle is chuffed with the wunderkind. “It's quite impressive. The depth of his research—from the stars to the satellite imagery to the foliage to the remains—is incredible,” he said. “I told my colleagues, ‘This could be our next president at CSA. One day we may all have to work for him.’”