The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has come to the defense of William Gadoury, the Canadian teen who found a possible lost Mayan city in the jungles of Mexico using star maps. The announcement was immediately attacked by Mayan researchers and academics and deemed a fraud. The academics claimed the satellite photo included with the original news story revealed a corn field not a lost city.
Armand LaRocque, the geologist who worked with Gadoury, soon hit back when he revealed that the satellite photo that had the academics in an uproar was not the correct image of the actual site in Mexico but of some unknown location in Belize. Apparently the news media had inadvertently published the wrong satellite photo in error and thus the academics had worked themselves into a frenzy over nothing. Oops.
One of the harshest critics, Dr. David Stuart of the University of Texas, who used his Facebook page to prematurely call Gadoury’s research “junk science,” soon deleted that post.
But the CSA recently told Snopes.com, a fact-checking website, that Gadoury never actually claimed to have found a lost city at all. Like any good researcher Gadoury simply “formed a hypothesis based on available data that he had spent years researching and curating, so that experts could proceed from there,” noted Snopes.com. What he found, the CSA claims, is what they call “an area of interest” which required further investigation. So once again, the academics had gotten themselves into an uproar over a newspaper headline that did not accurately reflect Gadoury’s actual claims. Double oops.
In an attempt to save face academics have restated their concerns in different terms. They now claim they were not so concerned about whether the teen had found an actual lost Mayan city but more so over his methods; i.e. utilizing Mayan constellations to do so. They argued that too little is known about actual Mayan constellations for this method to work.
Again, the CSA seems to have undermined this claim as well. They told Snopes.com:
“We actually met William during the summer of 2014, because at that point [he] won a few science fairs with his project. So we attended his presentation and realized, this boy is really bright and really organized and had put together this project… and he was wondering why these temples, these pyramids were in odd places. So that’s how it started — he took the constellation maps and overlaid them over the map, and realized the constellations matched.”
It appears that Gadoury was simply using modern constellations not “Mayan” constellations to search for correlations. This is further supported by a report in the Ottawa Sun:
“Using a set of 22 constellations and 117 known settlements, Gadoury found certain cities corresponded with stars in a given constellation, making an almost identical shape on the map. So he could draw a line connecting five cities in the Yucatan Peninsula, for example, to form the W-shape of Cassiopeia constellation.”
Cassiopeia is a modern constellation not a “Mayan” constellation (although it has been recognized since ancient times.) Thus the attempt to discredit Gadoury’s hypothesis on these grounds is once again based on misinformation in the original news report. Triple oops.
Since there are many obvious star groupings in the sky that have been recognized by numerous cultures around the globe throughout time this is not a bad methodology. In fact, this methodology could actually help researchers discover precisely which stars the Maya did group together to form their own constellations.
Hopefully researchers will now settle down in their near frenzied attempts to debunk Gadoury’s claims. In the future hopefully they will wait for Gadoury to actually publish his findings in a science journal before offering their critiques instead of critizing erroneous photos, headlines and other claims published in the popular press. Gadoury’s hard work deserves no less.