Laser technology reveals ancient cities with pyramids in the Bolivian Amazon
Scientists believe the cities were built between 500 and 1400 AD and were hidden for centuries under dense vegetation
Previously unknown ancient cities spanning hundreds of hectares have been discovered deep in the forest savannah of Bolivia’s Llanos de Mojos thanks to new technologies.
International researchers from the UK and Germany have found the settlements, believed to have been built between 500 and 1400 AD, which have been hidden by nature for centuries, the Daily Mail reports.
Dense vegetation had hidden the ancient ruins from previous surveys, but this group of researchers used airborne laser technology for the first time in the Amazon.
Their findings were published in the journal Nature.
The evidence is considered evidence of permanent settlement in the area in pre-Hispanic times, and which is believed to have observed sustainability and conservation.
“So the whole area was densely populated, a pattern that overturns all previous ideas,” said co-author Professor Carla Betancourt.
“For the first time, we can refer to pre-Hispanic urbanism in the Amazon and show the map of the site of Cotoca, the largest settlement of the Casarabe culture that we know of to date.”
The settlements feature towering terraces covering 54 acres – the equivalent of 30 football fields – and 69-foot-tall conical pyramids.
A vast network of reservoirs, causeways and checkpoints, stretching for several kilometres, was also discovered in the vast lands.
The results challenge the idea that the Amazon was untouched or pristine, but instead raise the question that it was home to the early urbanism of indigenous peoples.
“We have long suspected that the most complex pre-Columbian societies in the entire basin developed in this part of the Bolivian Amazon, but the evidence is hidden under the forest canopy and difficult to visit in person,” said José Iriarte. from the University of Exeter. , reports the Daily Mail.
“There are monumental structures only a mile away connected by 600 miles of canals long with raised causeways linking sites, reservoirs and lakes.”
The Mojos Plains, at the southwestern fringe of the Amazon region, are flooded several months a year during the rainy season, making them unsuitable for permanent settlement.
However, in recent decades evidence has emerged of irrigation, earthworks, large cities, causeways and canals that often lead for miles in a straight line through the savannahs.
The lidar technology surveys the terrain with a laser scanner attached to a helicopter, small plane or drone before the vegetation is then digitally removed.
A 3D image is produced or a digital model of the earth’s surface.
The process revealed two remarkably large sites of 363 acres and 778 acres in a dense four-tier settlement system.
The architecture consists of stepped platforms topped by U-shaped structures, mounds of rectangular platforms, and conical pyramids.
The study shows that indigenous peoples not only managed forest landscapes, but also created urban landscapes in tandem, which testifies to sustainable and successful livelihood strategies, but also to a cultural and ecological heritage previously unknown .
“Our results put an end to arguments that the western Amazon was sparsely populated in pre-Hispanic times. The architectural layout of the major settlement sites of the Casarabe culture indicates that the people of this region created a new social and public landscape,” said co-author Dr Mark Robinson from the University of Exeter.
The research, conducted by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, University of Bonn, University of Exeter and ArcTron 3D, is published in the journal Nature.