The discovery of the lost city of the Amazon

This changes what we believed about Amazonian societies. Archaeologists found something unusual. The discovery of the lost city of the Amazon reveals a new world. It was home to at least 10,000 farmers about 2,000 years ago.

More than two decades ago, archaeologist Stéphen Rostain first discovered a series of earthen mounds and buried roads in Ecuador. He wasn't sure how it all fit together. Recent mapping using laser sensor technology revealed the truth. These sites were part of a dense network of settlements and connecting roads. They hid in the forested foothills of the Andes and lasted around 1,000 years.

The discovery of the lost city of the Amazon shows us a new world.
The discovery of the lost city of the Amazon shows us a new world.

Lost City

“It was a lost valley of cities,” Rostain said. He directs research at France's National Center for Scientific Research: “It's incredible.” The settlements were occupied by the Upano people between 500 BC. C. and 300 to 600 AD. C. It is the period more or less contemporary with the Roman Empire in Europe.

The residential and ceremonial buildings were erected on more than 6,000 mounds of earth. There are agricultural fields with drainage canals and large roads. They extended from 10 to 20 kilometers. It is estimated at least 10,000 inhabitants. This is estimated by archaeologist Antoine Dorison, co-author of the study. It is comparable to the estimated population of Roman-era London. “It was a very dense occupation and an extremely complicated society,” the researchers said. “For the region, it's really unique in terms of how early it is.”

José Iriarte is an archaeologist at the University of Exeter. He said an elaborate system of organized labor would have been required for its construction. “The Incas and the Mayans built with stone. The people of the Amazon typically did not have stone available to build with: they built with mud. “It is an immense amount of work,” Iriarte said.

Radar technology allowed the discovery.
Radar technology allowed the discovery.

Complex systems

The Amazon is often thought of as “pristine wilderness with only small groups of people. “The discovery of the lost city of the Amazon shows how much more complex the past really is,” he said. There is evidence of intricate rainforest societies that preceded European contact in other parts of the Amazon. Included are Bolivia and Brazil.

“There has always been an incredible diversity of people and settlements in the Amazon. Not just a way of living,” Rostain said. “We’re just learning more about them.”

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