Post contributed by Neal Rappleye

Neal Rappleye

Stephen Houston Talks about LiDAR, Maya Warfare at Inaugural John L. Sorenson Lecture

November 20, 2019

On October 28, 2019, Dr. Stephen Houston, one of the leading Maya archaeologists in the world, currently the Dupee Family Professor of Social Sciences at Brown University, gave the inaugural John L. Sorenson Lecture, sponsored by the BYU Department of Anthropology and Book of Mormon Central.

Houston’s presentation, entitled, “Recovering a Lost World: The LiDAR Revolution and Ancient Maya Warfare,” is now available to watch on Book of Mormon Central’s YouTube channel.  In it, Houston introduces LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), explains what it is and how it is revolutionizing Maya archaeology, and particularly our understanding of the nature and extent of Maya warfare. Houston specifically discusses the new evidence for a line of fortifications at La Cuernavilla, located in Guatemala near Tikal, and implications of this new evidence for extensive warfare in the late-4th century AD throughout the Maya region.

Throughout the lecture, Houston, who previously worked in the BYU Department of Anthropology, was very complimentary toward the ongoing work in the fields of Mesoamerican archaeology and anthology being done at BYU, and of John L. Sorenson’s work in particular.

Latter-day Saints will find Dr. Houston’s information highly interesting when considering potential applicability to Nephite and Lamanite history and warfare, even though Dr. Houston himself, who is not a Latter-day Saint, made no comparisons to the Book of Mormon.

All students of Mesoamerican history in the pre-Classic period will surely take interest in the extensive walls and fortifications located by Houston’s use of LiDAR technology. Likewise, the expanded dominance of occupying forces from Teotihuacan in the late fourth century in the Yucatán around Tikal has now become better understood than ever before.

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