In a groundbreaking discovery, archaeologists have unearthed a massive, sophisticated city in Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, challenging long-held views on ancient civilizations in the Americas. This lost city, nestled in the Andes foothills, is believed to be older than any other known site in the Amazon.
A discovery that rewrites history
Unearthed through a blend of aerial laser scanning (Lidar) and ground excavation, the city dates back to around 2,500 years ago and was occupied for nearly a millennium. This places it in the same era as the renowned Mayan cities of Mexico and Central America. The site, found in Ecuador’s Upano Valley, an area once thought to be minimally inhabited, indicates a more densely populated and complex settlement than was previously understood.
Stephen Rostain from France’s National Center for Scientific Research, the project’s lead, stresses the importance of reevaluating our perspectives on ancient civilizations, moving away from Eurocentric views. His colleague, Antoine Dorison, points out that this discovery shifts our understanding of Amazonian cultures, showing they were capable of creating intricate urban societies, challenging the stereotype of small, rudimentary groups.
The city’s structure and legacy
The city, once concealed by a thick jungle, exhibits remarkable urban planning. It features monumental structures, plazas, streets, agricultural systems, terraces, and an extensive road network linking various urban areas. Michael Heckenberger, an anthropology professor at the University of Florida, notes the exceptional complexity and density of the settlement for its time. Estimates suggest the city’s population might have been in the tens or even hundreds of thousands at its zenith.
The reasons behind the decline of the Upano civilization, the city’s builders, are still unknown. Volcanic activity is one theory for the area’s eventual abandonment. Ongoing archaeological efforts aim to reveal more about the population size and broader history of the Americas.
This discovery, facilitated by Lidar technology, challenges established notions about ancient American civilizations. It suggests the existence of more undiscovered cities, which could further alter our understanding of human history in the Western Hemisphere.