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Experts question Quebec teen's possible discovery of lost Mayan city

Archaeologist are raising doubts about findings put forward by a 15-year-old boy from Saint-Jean-de-Matha, Que., who believes he discovered what could be the ruins of a lost 4,600-year-old city in Mexico.

Archaeologist praises William Gadoury, 15, for his efforts, but cautions findings have 'no support'

William Gadoury managed to convince the Canadian Space Agency to provide images from its RADARSAT-2 satellite of an area he believes contains a lost Mayan city. The images provide support for his theory. (Justin Hayward/CBC)

Archaeologists are raising doubts about findings put forward by a 15-year-old boy from Saint-Jean-de-Matha, Que., who believes he discovered what could be the ruins of a lost 4,600-year-old city in Mexico.

William Gadoury, a Grade 10 student at Académie Antoine-Manseau in Joliette, received widespread praise for using ancient star charts and the positions of known Mayan ruins to locate a possible Mayan city.

He won first place at his school science fair and earned him a trip to an international conference in Quebec City organized by the Canadian Space Agency.

Gadoury used the opportunity to request images captured by the space agency's Radarsat-2 satellite to help confirm his findings.

The story has since been picked up by media outlets around the world, with coverage in publications including Popular Mechanics, the New York Daily News and the BBC. 

Others, including Wired Magazine, questioned the findings, saying the potential lost city was more likely "an abandoned field."

A satellite image (left) added weight to William Gadoury's theory that he developed using Google Earth images (right) that he had found the platforms of lost Mayan pyramids. (William Gadoury/CSA/Google)

Ivan Sprajc, an archeologist and Mayan expert based in Slovenia, lauded Gadoury for his efforts, but said Wednesday the findings have "no support."

In general, since we know of several environmental facts that conditioned the location of Maya settlements, the idea correlating them with stars is utterly unlikely.- Ivan  Sprajc , archeologist

"In archaeology, we have been using remote sensing for quite some time, and obviously have some experience in recognizing archaeological features in the Maya Lowlands," he wrote on Facebook.

"The rectangle on the published image, supposedly a Maya site, is but an old milpa or cultivation plot, abandoned years ago, but definitely not centuries ago."

He added that it's "impossible to check whether there is any correspondence between the stars and the location of Maya cities."

"In general, since we know of several environmental facts that conditioned the location of Maya settlements, the idea correlating them with stars is utterly unlikely," he said.

While there's some doubt about the findings, it appears Gadoury has a bright future.

The teenager has been invited to provide an article to a scientific journal. He has also received invitations to the national science fair at McGill University and an international conference in Brazil.

High school student William Gadoury discusses his first Mayan discovery with CBC News report Alison Northcott. 0:27

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