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Archaeologists discover 2500-year-old lost settlements in the Amazon rainforests

The settlement was home to about 10,000 inhabitants and at its peak, about 15,000 to 30,000 people lived there.

Archaeologists discover 2500-year-old lost settlements in the Amazon rainforests
Cover Image Source: Aerial view of the historic low tide that the Amazon has been experiencing has left part of the Rio Negro dry. October 3, 2023, Manaus, Brazil. (Photo by Bruno Zanardo/Getty Images)

Amazon rainforests comprise about 40 percent of Brazil's total area, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the tree line of the Andes in the west. It is the world's richest rainforest with a vast number of flora and fauna. According to a paper published in Science, 2,500-year-old ancient cities have been found in the rainforests recently. The people conducting the research have found a dense system of pre-Hispanic urban centers in the Upano Valley of Amazonian Ecuador, in the eastern foothills of the Ande.

Image Source: Brazil - Ecology and environment - Greenpeace Amazonian operations - Getty Images | Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis
Image Source: Brazil - Ecology and environment - Greenpeace Amazonian operations - Getty Images | Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis

Fieldwork and light detection ranging (LIDAR) analysis discovered an "anthropized landscape with clusters of monumental platforms, plazas, and streets" that follows a specific pattern entwined with vast agricultural drainages, terraces and wide straight roads running over great distances. LIDAR is a technology used for airplanes in which a laser sends signals that get reflected off surface obstructions, according to My Modern Met. The latest scan has shown over 6000 earthen mounds on the top of which many complex structures were built. And these amount to about five major and 10 minor complexes or cities. Moreover, the largest road was about 33 feet wide and stretched 6 to 12 miles.



 

As per archaeologists, these were home to about 10,000 farmers and they termed it as an "extremely complicated society," reports The Independent. Stephen Rostain, one of the researchers who found the earthen mounds and buried roads in Ecuador, was not sure about the findings initially. "I wasn't sure how it all fits together," said Rostain, who directs the investigations at France's National Center for Scientific Research. The sites were part of settlements and roadways that were in the forested foothills of the Andes.

Rostain said it was "a lost valley of cities" and "it's incredible." The Upano people were the ones who settled in these areas around 500 B.C. Also, the researchers have found that around 300 to 600 A.D., the same time, the Roman Empire was in power in Europe. The settlement was home to about 10,000 inhabitants and at its peak, about 15,000 to 30,000 people lived there.

Jose Iriarte, an archaeologist at the University of Exter, said that an elaborate system of organized labor would have been needed to build the roads and thousands of earthen mounds, reports the outlet. "The Incas and Mayans built with stone, but people in Amazonia didn't usually have stone available to build — they built with mud. It's still an immense amount of labor," Iriarte said.



 

According to the author of the paper, "Such a discovery is another vivid example of the underestimation of Amazonia's twofold heritage: environmental but also cultural and therefore Indigenous." It also states that they "believe that it is crucial to thoroughly revise our preconceptions of the Amazonian world and, in doing so, to reinterpret contexts and concepts in the necessary light of an inclusive and participatory science."

Besides that, scientists also have found evidence of other rainforest societies in the Amazon, including Bolivia and Brazil. "There's always been an incredible diversity of people and settlements in the Amazon, not only one way to live," said Rostain. "We're just learning more about them."



 

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