Teen Credited With Discovering an Ancient Maya City, Experts Say the Science Doesn’t Check Out

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15-year-old Canadian William Gadoury was probably feeling himself after being credited with finding a forgotten Maya city from his bedroom. But experts are speaking out and saying his methods seem dubious. The teen, who became interested in archaeology in 2012, matched stars to the locations of temples on Earth, according to Gizmodo. After finding 22 constellations that matched 117 Maya cities in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, Gadoury’s research seemed to link diagrams of constellations and maps of known Maya cities.

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

However, when trying to match a 23rd constellation, he could only match two of the stars to documented cities. When he couldn’t match the third star to a known city, he hypothesized a third location in the Yucatan Peninsula. He then contacted the Canadian Space Agency, and used satellite images they provided to find that a city did correspond to the third star. The excited teen even named the unexplored location K’aak Chi, or Mouth of Fire.

While I still think it sounds impressive (but I don’t get science), David Stuart – an anthropologist from The Mesoamerica Center-University of Texas at Austin – took to his Facebook to call him out.

We also spoke with Hugo García Capistrán, a professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and  Escuela de Antopología e Historia, who shared Stuart’s doubt. “The first thing that needs to be pointed out, without discrediting the work of this 15-year-old, is that we’ve always known that there are still many Maya archaeological sites that remained untouched or unidentified,” he said. “The biggest problem with these kinds of articles is that hypotheses that haven’t been discussed in trusted academic circles are presented as fact. It’s not valid to say that they spoke to ‘two Mexican archaeologists’ and not mention their names, and it’s also not valid to talk about the supposed maps used by him and not show them. As of right now, we don’t have evidence that indicates that the Mayas used a star map to pick the locations of their cities.”

As a matter of fact, García Capistrán said that what is known is that the Maya looked for places that kept them close to natural resources, so rivers or places they could find raw materials.

Additional reporting by Santiago Solorzano.