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Did a Teenager Discover an Ancient Maya City on Google Earth?

The Tale of the Ancient Maya and a Canadian Teenager

ON JUNE 2, 2016, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE PUBLISHED an interview with a Canadian teenager named William Gadoury, who claimed that he discovered a lost Maya city on Google Earth. In the interview Gadoury suggested that archaeologists who were naturally skeptical of his findings were simply jealous.

A map of the Yucatan Peninsula area. The black triangles indicate Maya archaeological sites. Adapted from www.mayamap.org/.

By way of background, on a particularly hot July day in the forests of Yucatan, Mexico, my colleague and I were looking for a Classic Period (ca. 200CE to 900CE) Maya archaeological site. We had a stack of documents telling us where the site was, my trusty machete, and even a GPS. We were close but could not find it. I turned around and walked back the way I had just come, but saw no sign of structures. Frustrated, I turned around again and started walking back, ready to throw in the towel. And then I spotted it, 15 feet to my right was a limestone block, then another, and another. Another 15 feet away from me there stood a pyramid that was more than 100 feet tall—I almost didn’t see it.

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INTERNET PORNOGRAPHY SPECIAL SECTION: IS PORNOGRAPHY BAD FOR YOU?; How Porn Is Messing with Your Manhood; Skeptical of Porn Skeptics; Hazards of Herbal Medicine: Lessons from Aristolochia; What is Sexual Orientation?; Did a Teenager Discover an Ancient Mayan City on Google Earth?; Paleo Diets and Utopian Dreams; Does AA Work? Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-Step Programs, and What We Really Know About Substance Abuse Treatment; The Clash of Eschatologies: The Role of End-Times Thinking in World History; Nightmares from the Id: The Neurophysiology of Anomalous Psychological Experiences; Terror Attacks that Never Were; Electromagnetic Fields and Parental Panics: A Case Study in How Science Can Bring Comfort; REVIEWS: Who Invented Science?; Science and the Creation of the Modern Mind; Heaven Is Not For Real; When Scientific American Put Psychics to the Test; JUNIOR SKEPTIC: MammothMysteries! Part One. The Hidden History of Mammoths and Mastodons
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