Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Finance & Innovation

Teen uncovers ancient Mayan city with Google Maps

twitter

December 21st 2012, the day the world was supposed to end--according to one of the cycles linked to the ancient Mayan calendar. While most of us went on with our lives, losing interest in the Mayan cyclical calendars, young William Gadoury fed his fascination for the ancient culture—and less than four years later—unearthed a previously lost Mayan civilization deep within Mexico’s Yucatan jungle.

"I knew they were good at astronomy, so I tried to make the link..I realized then that one city hadn't been discovered.” - William Gadoury

When William presented his findings at his school’s science fair, he created enough of a stir that he was sent to an international conference in Quebec City organized by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). William took this opportunity to request satellite imagery from CSA’s RADARSAT-2 satellite, used in conjunction with Google Maps.

When the data was explored, there appeared to be something there, a very distinct square box to be precise. William speculates that the box is the base of Mayan pyramids.

William has named this recovered civilization, K’aak Chi, or Mouth of Fire.

William’s findings have many nonbelievers, but like any good hypothesis, it cannot be proven as FACT until it is tested, or in Gadoury’s case, found.

It's still an uplifting, feel good story: a 15 year old out-thinks the world’s top anthropologists and astrologists by realizing the connection between constellation points and ancient civilization coordinates.

The outlandishness of the situation is why William’s discovery faces incredible skepticism; it's a tough field to prove anything in unless there is concrete evidence that recognized as FACT by trained scientists in the field.

Therefore, William’s discovery is categorized as something called, citizen science, or the data collection done by non-scientists on a project, in partnership with professional scientists.

It might be a long time before William is able to set foot in K’aak Chi. He is still yet to attend university, and then to become a true scientist he’ll need a dual doctoral degree in his prospective scientific fields of archaeology and astronomy.

That is not to say that the support William is being given is charitable or complete bogus. If anything, it is an example, on a very large scale, of what happens when outright professionals in a field of study give teenagers the opportunity to explore their passions.

Scientists from CSA, McGill University and places could have brushed off William’s findings. Instead they saw the exciting possibility for not only the rediscovery of an ancient city, but also for fostering a future scientist like themselves.

Who knows, in 20 years, William might be a world-renowned scientist. And maybe he'll cite this special moment of community support as his breakthrough moment of inspiration.