The PACUNAM LIDAR INITIATIVE publishes largest lidar survey in the history of archaeology in Science

The study, the result of 2 years of intense analysis of 2100 km2 of lidar data by a team of international scholars with the coordination and support of Guatemala’s Fundacion PACUNAM, was published in the September 28, 2018 issue of Science Magazine. Among the study’s most surprising finds is Tikal’s and Naachtun’s urban sprawl extending beyond the expected 100 km2 area. The researchers also document massive amounts of agricultural infrastructure designed to mitigate soil erosion and optimize production, including extensive terracing and canalization of wetlands. The New York Times, the Washington Post as well as other science & technology outlets published commentaries by various experts. The paper is now listed by Altmetrics as among the top 1 % most viewed scientific articles since tracking began. The full study can be found here:

The Naachtun area was one of the densest and more extensive urban sprawls in the PLI lidar survey. Credits: Auld-Thomas/PACUNAM

This research was supported in part by the Maya Archaeology Initiative

Join in saving the Maya heritage

3D scan image of Holmul Frieze by A. Tokovinine

Image from 3D scan data by Alexandre Tokovinine, Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Peabody Museum at Harvard University

December 16, 2015

Dear Friends,

It has been a great year and we are extremely proud of what Maya Archaeology Initiative, together with our partners, has accomplished in 2015. On behalf of the MAI team we want to thank you for your support, share with you our successes, and ask that you consider a another contribution to pave the way for our work in 2016.

Here are some of the highlights of 2015:

  • Completed a second season of conservation in the Holmul Frieze and associated substructures.
  • Secured access to Holmul frieze which is now tourism-ready.
  • Conserved recently excavated ceramic vases from Holmul in preparation  for exhibits in Guatemala and aborad.
  • Began conservation of objects from Cival housed in the National Museum in Guatemala City.
  • Mapped new sites around Holmul and Cival subverting prior notions that underestimated early Maya settlement organization.
  • Partnered with the National Geographic Society to support  the park rangers at El Mirador-Rio Azul Park with new uniforms.
  • Maintained a team of 8 park rangers at Holmul and Cival, which are among the richest troves of Maya history and endangered wildlife.

In the year ahead we are planning an even more aggressive schedule of projects, all aimed at preservation of Maya culture, conservation of our precious rainforest biosphere, and educational programs to support opportunities for future generations in Guatemala.

Will you help us? Donations to MAI are fully tax-decuctible. Any amount is welcome, and it is easy: just visit the store and donation area on our website at or mail a check to

Maya Archaeology Initiative
2977 Ygnacio Valley Road
Walnut Creek, CA 94598

You will receive a thank you letter and receipt for tax purposes.


Thank you and we look forward to another great year!

Best Wishes,

Francisco & Clay



3D model of Building A, Group II, Holmul

Virtual model based on excavation profiles and plans relating to Building A’s Palace structure phase (ca. 558-593 CE, lower structure) and Frieze structure phase ( ca. 593 CE) upper structure) with underlying associated tomb believed to be Tzhab Chaan Yopaat’s (ca. 593 CE) who is depicted in the central section of the frieze. A later phase (the final phase) covering this edifice is not shown. Created in SketchUp program by Francisco Estrada-Belli. Copyright Holmul Archaeological Project. You may see a high-resolution model of the Frieze from 3D scan data here

Building A, Group II, Holmul
by franciscoeb
on Sketchfab

A virtual reality model of the Holmul Frieze

3D scan data and model by A. Tokovinine, Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.

Building A-sub, Group II, Holmul
by Alexandre Tokovinine
on Sketchfab

Upper frieze of Building A of Group II, Holmul, discovered in 2013 by the Holmul Archaeological Project for more info see here
to help protect it with a donation click here

Oldest known image of Chahk found in the Holmul region


Other finds from Holmul 2013 unveiled