In an archaeological discovery, researchers have discovered a hidden network of interconnected cities in the Upano Valley of the Amazon rainforest, challenging beliefs about ancient civilizations in the region.
The findings, detailed in an article published in Science, showed an urban society that thrived between 3,000 and 1,500 years ago, making it older than any other pre-Columbian Amazonian city discovered to date.
The Upano Valley, located in eastern Ecuador, had long been in the dense vegetation of the Amazon rainforest, concealing a colossal ancient city.
The breakthrough came when a team of archaeologists, led by Prof. Stephen Rostain from the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, utilized state-of-the-art laser-sensor technology known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).
The survey, conducted in 2015, revealed a vast urban complex, complete with houses, plazas, roads, canals, and agricultural fields.
The newly discovered city in the Upano Valley challenges the prevailing notion that the Amazon was primarily inhabited by small, nomadic groups.
The researchers identified over 6,000 raised earthen platforms spread across 300 square kilometers, as the foundations for wooden buildings.
Excavations exposed post holes and fireplaces on these platforms, providing valuable insights into the architectural techniques of the ancient Upano people.
The settlements, comprising five major urban centers, exhibited a level of density unparalleled for their early timeframe, comparable to well-known ancient civilizations such as the Maya.
The city was constructed around 2,500 years ago and inhabited for up to 1,000 years, making it a cultural and archaeological marvel.
The Upano people showed advanced agricultural practices, cultivating crops like maize, beans, manioc, and sweet potatoes in fields surrounded by drainage canals.
The researchers discovered a network of wide, straight roads connecting the major settlements, with some extending for at least 25 kilometers.
The roadways were a testament to the Upano people’s engineering prowess, as they often opted for straight paths, even digging down 5 meters in some places.
Estimating the population of the ancient city is difficult, but conservative estimates suggest at least 10,000 inhabitants, with peak populations possibly reaching 15,000 or even 30,000.
This places the Upano Valley city on par with the population of Roman-era London, shows the complexity of Amazonian civilizations during this period.
Prof. Rostain addressed that the findings alter perceptions of Amazonian cultures, dispelling stereotypes of small, primitive groups. Instead, the ancient Upano people lived in sophisticated urban societies, engaging in social, economic, and ceremonial activities.
The Upano Valley discovery a growing body of evidence challenging the myth of the the forest as an untouched wilderness before European contact.
Over the past two decades, archaeological revelations, including pyramids, earthworks, and now this extensive city, underline the rich and diverse history of the Amazon basin.
The Upano Valley settlement is distinct from other pre-Columbian Amazonian societies, being both larger and older than previously known cities.
The success of the Upano Valley excavation owes much to the application of Lidar technology, which has revolutionized our understanding in pre-Columbian times.
By allowing researchers to penetrate the dense forest cover, Lidar has unveiled hidden archaeological treasures and reshaped the narrative of ancient Amazonian civilizations.
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Upano people adds to the archaeological narrative. The team found evidence of volcanic ash layers, suggesting a series of eruptions that may have forced the population to abandon the valley.
Unlike other Amazonian settlements that were often abandoned due to European colonization and its associated diseases, the Upano sites predate the colonial era.