Giant ancient city that nobody knew existed is found hidden in the Amazon rainforest

vt-author-image

By James Kay

Article saved!Article saved!

A giant ancient city has been discovered in the Amazon Rainforest which furthers our understanding of ancient Amazonian civilizations.

Lead researcher Stephen Rostain and his team, in an article published in Science, detailed the intricate network of settlements, complete with platforms, plazas, streets, farms, and canals.

Hidden for centuries beneath dense foliage, these interconnected agrarian cities were found in the Upano Valley, Ecuador, following a meticulous study of data from a 300 sqkm light detection and ranging (Lidar) survey.

The settlements, associated with the ancient Upano people who lived there approximately 2500 years ago (500 BCE), were discovered through artifacts and extensive archaeological examination.

The Upano people, with an estimated population of 30,000, vanished mysteriously between 300-600 CE. Approximately 200 years later, individuals linked to the Huapula culture settled in the region. By the time Europeans arrived, the thriving settlements had been mostly concealed by the encroaching forest.

The research team identified a "dense system of pre-Hispanic urban centers," complete with extensive agricultural drainages, terraces, and remarkably straight roads covering vast distances. The intricate road system served to connect different urban centers, creating a regional-scale network.

Describing the findings as "incredible," Rostain, who first observed earthen mounds in the region two decades ago, stated: "It was a lost valley of cities."

The landscape is believed to have been dominated by paddocks irrigated by canals, illustrating a concept referred to as "garden urbanism." The settlements stand out due to their significant size and age.

The Kilamope and Upano people living there probably mostly focused on agriculture. People ate maize and sweet potato and probably drank "chicha", a type of sweet beer.

"These settlements are much bigger than others in the Amazon," remarked Rostain of the French National Center for Scientific Research. "This is older than any other site we know in the Amazon. We have a Eurocentric view of civilization, but this shows we have to change our idea about what is culture and civilization," he emphasized, according to a Yahoo! News report.

The discovered settlements are approximately 1000 years older than any others previously found in the Amazon. The advantageous location between the Andes and Amazonia, coupled with fertile soil from the stratovolcano Sangay, likely contributed to their prosperity.

Co-author Antoine Dorison highlighted the significance of the discovery, stating: "It changes the way we see Amazonian cultures. Most people picture small groups, probably naked, living in huts and clearing land - this shows ancient people lived in complicated urban societies," as reported by the BBC.

He added: "The road network is very sophisticated. It extends over a vast distance, everything is connected. And there are right angles, which is very impressive."

Rostain said that he was warned against this type of research at the start of his career as his peers didn't believe anything could be found in the Amazon.

"But I'm very stubborn, so I did it anyway. Now I must admit I am quite happy to have made such a big discovery," he said.

Featured image credit: Anderson Coelho/Getty

Giant ancient city that nobody knew existed is found hidden in the Amazon rainforest

vt-author-image

By James Kay

Article saved!Article saved!

A giant ancient city has been discovered in the Amazon Rainforest which furthers our understanding of ancient Amazonian civilizations.

Lead researcher Stephen Rostain and his team, in an article published in Science, detailed the intricate network of settlements, complete with platforms, plazas, streets, farms, and canals.

Hidden for centuries beneath dense foliage, these interconnected agrarian cities were found in the Upano Valley, Ecuador, following a meticulous study of data from a 300 sqkm light detection and ranging (Lidar) survey.

The settlements, associated with the ancient Upano people who lived there approximately 2500 years ago (500 BCE), were discovered through artifacts and extensive archaeological examination.

The Upano people, with an estimated population of 30,000, vanished mysteriously between 300-600 CE. Approximately 200 years later, individuals linked to the Huapula culture settled in the region. By the time Europeans arrived, the thriving settlements had been mostly concealed by the encroaching forest.

The research team identified a "dense system of pre-Hispanic urban centers," complete with extensive agricultural drainages, terraces, and remarkably straight roads covering vast distances. The intricate road system served to connect different urban centers, creating a regional-scale network.

Describing the findings as "incredible," Rostain, who first observed earthen mounds in the region two decades ago, stated: "It was a lost valley of cities."

The landscape is believed to have been dominated by paddocks irrigated by canals, illustrating a concept referred to as "garden urbanism." The settlements stand out due to their significant size and age.

The Kilamope and Upano people living there probably mostly focused on agriculture. People ate maize and sweet potato and probably drank "chicha", a type of sweet beer.

"These settlements are much bigger than others in the Amazon," remarked Rostain of the French National Center for Scientific Research. "This is older than any other site we know in the Amazon. We have a Eurocentric view of civilization, but this shows we have to change our idea about what is culture and civilization," he emphasized, according to a Yahoo! News report.

The discovered settlements are approximately 1000 years older than any others previously found in the Amazon. The advantageous location between the Andes and Amazonia, coupled with fertile soil from the stratovolcano Sangay, likely contributed to their prosperity.

Co-author Antoine Dorison highlighted the significance of the discovery, stating: "It changes the way we see Amazonian cultures. Most people picture small groups, probably naked, living in huts and clearing land - this shows ancient people lived in complicated urban societies," as reported by the BBC.

He added: "The road network is very sophisticated. It extends over a vast distance, everything is connected. And there are right angles, which is very impressive."

Rostain said that he was warned against this type of research at the start of his career as his peers didn't believe anything could be found in the Amazon.

"But I'm very stubborn, so I did it anyway. Now I must admit I am quite happy to have made such a big discovery," he said.

Featured image credit: Anderson Coelho/Getty