Exploring Maya Ruins in Belize, Central America using Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)

Julie Ann Aitken

A number of GPR surveys have been conducted by the University of Calgary at the Maya archaeological sites of Maax Na and La Milpa in Belize, Central America. Undertaken from 2001 to 2008, our research has focussed on enhancing the quality of the GPR images, highlighting anomalous features, and mapping near-surface stratigraphy and topography across the Maya plazas. Significant differences in radar velocities between field seasons are attributed to varying climatic conditions (rainfall) and can be explained through fluid substitution using the Wyllie Time Average Equation. Variations in velocities, depth of penetration and resolution have a significant effect on the interpretation of events on a GPR record. Based on the analysis of more than 40 2-D lines and four 3-D surveys, the best anomalies have been identified and catalogued, and will serve as a possible basis for future excavation. GPR surveys show considerable promise for subsurface imaging at Maya sites.