The news that a Canadian teen had discovered an ancient Mayan city hidden in the Yucatan jungle without ever leaving home spread rapidly in Mexico's media, but experts here responded Wednesday with caution and said that they cannot back the claim.
Initial reporting was that 15-year-old William Gadoury noticed what appeared to be the outlines of man-made structures covered with jungle foliage in satellite images he was viewing on his home computer.
Nevertheless, an official with Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, told EFE that they cannot "endorse the existence of this city or the information presented by this boy."
The INAH also said that it is not even "considering" the alleged find, since "there is no scientific basis for it."
INAH archaeological coordinator Pedro Francisco Sanchez emphasized that Gadoury's theory lacks appropriate seriousness since it is not known what scale he was using to match the stars in constellations with the locations of Mayan settlements and temples.
Gadoury, who admits being fascinated by the Maya civilization, said he had noticed that the relative positions of bright stars in various constellations corresponded to the location of 117 known Maya cities.
The constellation-city correlation has never before been made by archaeologists studying the Mesoamerican civilization, which fell apart before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492.
Gadoury noticed that two of the stars in a certain three-star constellation corresponded with two known cities but the third star did not have a known counterpart city, and so he began investigating if it could also have a match.
The teen examined satellite images he had requested from the Canadian Space Agency until he found what appeared to be human-built structures overgrown by foliage deep in the Yucatan jungle in southeastern Mexico.
Astronomical Society of Mexico president Alejandro Farah told EFE that the link between star positions and Mayan city locations is not "so easy to see," adding that although media outlets attributed the discovery of the constellation-city link to the Canadian teen, "that's like saying that (he) discovered hot water," since archaeoastronomy is a field in which extensive studies have been performed.
Meanwhile, the CSA, NASA and Japan's space agency have all verified that the structures discovered by Gadoury include a pyramid and about 30 buildings of what seems to be one of the Maya civilization's largest cities, which Gadoury named K'aak Chi, meaning "Mouth of fire" in the Maya language.