Scientists Discover Ancient Cities in the Amazon

In the Llanos de Mojos region of the Bolivian Amazon, scientists recently discovered remnants of vast urban settlements, proving the existence of ancient Amazonian cities. Using a light-based remote sensing technology called lidar, scientists digitally deforested the canopy to survey the ruins beneath it. They found a stronghold of the socially complex Casarabe Culture (who existed from 500 to 1400 CE) who built urban centers, monumental platforms, pyramid architecture over 70 feet tall, raised causeways connecting suburban settlements, reservoirs, canals, a water control and distribution system and more. The highly developed structures prove that sophisticated societies existed there well before European intervention. “This is, in my mind, the clearest case of a fully urbanized Amazonian landscape,” says an anthropologist at the University of Florida, Michael Heckenberger. While scientists still do not know what happened to the Casarabe people, this striking discovery brings scientists much closer to understanding the Amazon. Learn more about it at Smithsonian Magazine.

Image courtesy of H. Prümers/DAI