Guatemala presents major Mayan archaeological discovery at UNESCO Headquarters

02 October 2018

On 1 October 2018, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Mr Ernesto Ottone R., met with Mr Álvaro Samayoa, Presidential Commissioner of Open Public Management and Transparency, Ms Guisela Godínez, Deputy Director General of International Multilateral and Economic Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala and H.E. Mr Fernando Andrade Falla, Ambassador of Guatemala to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, who presented the recent Maya archaeological finds discovered in Guatemala. During the meeting, the importance of safeguarding this cultural heritage and leveraging culture as a source of sustainable development in line with the 2030 Agenda was reinforced.
Drone-based laser mapping tools uncovered a vast network of ancient cities constructed by the Maya under the Guatemalan forest in February this year, connecting heritage sites such as Tikal, Holmul, and Witzna and more than 60,000 archaeological ruins, including tombs, palaces and pyramids.  
In the wake of such discovery, UNESCO and Guatemala highlighted the importance of pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to the safeguarding and promotion of these historic natural and cultural sites by combining science, culture and development with the support of a diverse network of partners, from academics to private sector and governmental representatives.
As Mr Andrade Falla declared, “This natural and cultural heritage that Guatemala shares with Mexico testifies to our collective humanity and represents a stepping stone for culture as an enabler of sustainable development and a catalyst of collaborative engagement”.
The Government of Guatemala will be organizing an exhibition devoted to this cultural breakthrough at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, in autumn 2019, which will reveal the lost history of the great Mayan civilization. 
As Mr Ottone recalled, “Harnessing digital technology as a means to revive the culture and history of our common humanity is among UNESCO’s top priorities”. The uncovering of this new cultural crossroads promises to entice global interest in the Mayan trade route that once traversed Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. While tourism is a major source of economic development, generating 1 in 11 jobs worldwide, visitor management and site presentation must remain a key concern to ensure the sustainability of future tourism and development.