SHOW MORE 

Mexico experts find 2,000 ruin sites near Maya train route

FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2018 file photo, tourists walk at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Experts in Mexico said Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, that they have detected more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic ruins or clusters of artefacts along the proposed route of the president's controversial Maya Train project on the Yucatan peninsula, which could slow down the already disputed project. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
FILE - In this Aug. 3, 2018 file photo, tourists walk at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Experts in Mexico said Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, that they have detected more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic ruins or clusters of artefacts along the proposed route of the president's controversial Maya Train project on the Yucatan peninsula, which could slow down the already disputed project. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

MEXICO CITY – Experts in Mexico said Wednesday they have detected more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic ruins or clusters of artefacts along the proposed route of the president’s controversial “Maya Train” project on the Yucatan peninsula.

The discovery of sites using LiDAR elevation mapping technology could slow down the already disputed project, which opponents contend also threatens indigenous communities and water supplies.

The laser elevation data showed a total of 2,187 “archaeological monuments” along 277 miles (366 kilometers) of the proposed route, about one-quarter of the total planned track. Experts already knew about the existence of some of the sites, but some are new.

The term “monuments” can mean many things, ranging from the remains of a pre-Hispanic Maya home, or carved stones, all the way up to remains of temple platforms. It was not clear how many of each type of artefact was detected, but Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said at least 91 were large-scale structures like plazas, pyramid or temple platforms.

Mayan houses were generally relatively insubstantial, with stone bases topped by thatch and wooden structures of which little remains.

The institute said in a statement that the builders of the train would have to take “specific measures” to avoid damaging the artefacts, but did not say whether that meant parts would have to be re-routed.

In July, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador inaugurated the start of construction on the “Maya Train," a pet project of his that would run some 950 miles (about 1,500 kilometers) in a rough loop around Yucatan.

The train is intended to connect Caribbean beach resorts to the peninsula’s interior, with largely indigenous populations and ruin sites, in a bid to stimulate economic development around its 15 stations. The government says it will cost as much as $6.8 billion, but others say it will be much more.