A newly discovered network of “lost” ancient cities in the Amazon could provide a pivotal new insight into how ancient civilisations combined the construction of vast urban landscapes while living alongside nature.
A team of international researchers, including Professor Jose Iriarte from the University of Exeter, has uncovered an array of intricate settlements in the Llanos de Mojos savannah-forest, Bolivia, that have laid hidden under the thick tree canopies for centuries.
The cities, built by the Casarabe communities between 500-1400 AD, feature an unprecedented array of elaborate and intricate structures unlike any previously discovered in the region – including 5m high terraces covering 22 hectares – the equivalent of 30 football pitches – and 21m tall conical pyramids.
Researchers also found a vast network of reservoirs, causeways and checkpoints, spanning several kilometres.
The discovery, the researchers say, challenges the view of Amazonia as a historically “pristine” landscape, but was instead home to an early urbanism created and managed by indigenous populations for thousands of years.
Crucially, researchers maintain that these cities were constructed and managed not at odds with nature, but alongside it – employing successful sustainable subsistence strategies that promoted conservationism and maintained the rich biodiversity of the surrounding landscape.