The civilization discovered under the Amazon

how was it revealed? Thanks to aerial mapping with lasers. They were gigantic settlements of a pre-Hispanic civilization. It was hidden under the thick vegetation. So now we know the civilization discovered under the Amazon.


The most complex culture

There were vestiges of a culture called Casarabe. There were remains in the Llanos de Mojos region of the Amazon basin. It flourished between 500 and 1400 A.D. However, the extent of its constructions was not known due to the difficulty of penetrating the thick jungle. A team led by Heiko Prümers of the German Archaeological Institute turned to Lidar technology. They used an airborne laser scanner that reveals the structures beneath the vegetation.

The use of Lidar made it possible to observe two settlements in detail. Then, they turned out to be gigantic: 147 hectares (Landívar) and 315 hectares (Cotoca).

Artificial terraces or hillocks five meters high were identified. There are 22 hectares (30 soccer fields), on which there were civic-ceremonial structures. There are roads and canals in the form of causeways connecting all sites and settlements.

Therefore, “it is the most complex of all the Amazon,” explained archaeologist José Iriarte, from the University of Exeter (UK). The findings are in the journal Nature.

It is located in the Bolivian Amazon.
It is located in the Bolivian Amazon.

Adapted to the forest

The Casarabe culture developed in a landscape with a “huge seasonal contrast”. More than four months of drought, which during the dry period cracked the clay with which they made their constructions.

“You can see that there are 1,000 kilometers of canals and embankments,” Iriarte pointed out. According to his studies of archeobotany in the Amazon, there is no evidence that this culture cut down the forest. It definitely adapted to the environment.

The study concludes that the Casarabe culture “fits into early low-density tropical urbanism.” This also existed in places in Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka or Central America. It puts aside the idea that the western Amazon was sparsely populated in pre-Hispanic times, the authors argue.

The civilization discovered under the Amazon breaks paradigms. “For the first time we can refer to pre-Hispanic urbanism in the Amazon,” Prümers said.

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