An enormous ancient city has been discovered in the heart of the Amazon, concealed for countless millennia beneath a dense cloak of vibrant foliage.
This groundbreaking finding revolutionises our understanding of the ancient inhabitants of the Amazon region.
The houses and plazas in the Upano area in eastern Ecuador were connected by an impressive network of roads and canals.
The area lies in the shadow of a volcano that created rich local soils but also may have led to the destruction of the society.
Although cities in the highlands of South America, such as Machu Picchu in Peru, were already known, it was previously thought that people in the Amazon region only lived nomadically or in small settlements.
“This site in the Amazon is incredibly ancient, surpassing all others in age.” “We need to reconsider our perspective on culture and civilization,” states Prof Stephen Rostain, the research lead at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, highlighting the need to move away from a Eurocentric viewpoint.
“It alters our perspective on Amazonian cultures.” “It is fascinating to see how ancient societies were actually complex urban civilizations,” explains co-author Antoine Dorison, challenging the common perception of small, primitive groups living in huts and clearing land.
Archaeologists have discovered that the city was established approximately 2,500 years ago and was inhabited for a span of about 1,000 years.
Estimating the population of the area at any given time is a challenging task, but according to scientists, it is believed to be in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
The archaeologists conducted ground excavations and utilised laser sensors flown on a plane to survey a vast area of 300 sq km (116 sq mile). This innovative approach allowed them to identify the remains of the city hidden beneath the dense vegetation.
A fascinating discovery has been made using LiDAR technology, revealing the presence of 6,000 rectangular platforms with specific measurements and heights.
The units were organised in clusters of three to six, surrounding a plaza that featured a central platform.
The scientists have concluded that a significant number of these structures were used as dwellings, while others served ceremonial functions. A massive structure at Kilamope featured a platform measuring 140m by 40m.
They were constructed by excavating hills and forming an elevated earth platform.
A vast network of roads and paths linked numerous platforms, with one stretching an impressive 25km (16 miles).
According to Dr. Dorison, the roads stood out as the most remarkable aspect of the research.
“The road network is highly advanced.” It spans across a wide expanse, everything is intertwined. “And there are right angles, which is quite remarkable,” he remarks, highlighting the challenge of constructing a road that aligns seamlessly with the surrounding environment.
He thinks that some had a significant significance, possibly connected to a ritual or belief.
The scientists also discovered causeways with ditches on either side, indicating the presence of canals that likely played a role in water management in the region.
Indications of potential dangers to the cities have emerged – certain ditches have been found obstructing entrances to the settlements, possibly suggesting the presence of nearby threats.
Researchers initially discovered evidence of a city back in the 1970s. However, it is only now, after 25 years of dedicated research, that a thorough survey has finally been completed.
It uncovers a vast and intricate society that seems to surpass the renowned Mayan societies in Mexico and Central America.
“It’s fascinating to think about stumbling upon a civilization similar to the Maya, yet with entirely unique architecture, land use, and ceramics,” remarks José Iriarte, an archaeology professor at the University of Exeter, who was not part of this study.
According to him, certain discoveries in South America are quite remarkable, particularly the arrangement of octagonal and rectangular platforms.
According to him, the societies displayed impressive organisation and connectivity, as evidenced by the extensive network of sunken roads connecting the settlements.
There is limited information available about the individuals who resided in that area and the nature of their communities.
Excavations on the platforms revealed the presence of pits and hearths, along with various artefacts like jars, grinding stones, and charred seeds.
The Kilamope and Upano people living there likely dedicated most of their efforts to agriculture. People consumed maize and sweet potato, and likely enjoyed “chicha”, a delightful form of sweet beer.
According to Prof Rostain, he received warnings about pursuing this research early in his career due to the prevailing belief among scientists that no ancient groups had inhabited the Amazon.
“However, despite my stubbornness, I went ahead and did it.” “I must admit, I am quite pleased to have made such a significant discovery,” he says.
The researchers are now focused on gaining a deeper understanding of the unexplored 300 sq km (116 sq mile) area adjacent to their current survey.