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Ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys provide distinct advantages for archaeological prospection in ancient, complex, urban Maya sites, particularly where dense foliage or modern debris may preclude other remote sensing or geophysical techniques. Unidirectional GPR surveys using a 500 MHz shielded antenna were performed at the Middle Preclassic Maya site of Pacbitun, Belize. The survey in 2012 identified numerous linear and circular anomalies between 1 m and 2 m deep. Based on these anomalies, one 1 m × 4 m unit and three smaller units were excavated in 2013. These test units revealed a curved plaster surface not previously found at Pacbitun. Post-excavation, GPR data were reprocessed to best match the true nature of excavated features. Additional GPR surveys oriented perpendicular to the original survey confirmed previously detected anomalies and identified new anomalies. The excavations provided information on the sediment layers in the survey area, which allowed better identification of weak radar reflections of the surfaces of a burnt, Middle Preclassic temple in the northern end of the survey area. Additional excavations of the area in 2014 and 2015 revealed it to be a large square structure, which was named El Quemado.


This article originally appeared in Remote Sensing, available at DOI: 10.3390/rs8100805

© 2016 by the authors. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (



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