A system of pre-Hispanic urban centres, dating back around 2,500 years, has been discovered by researchers in the Upper Amazon, possibly the region’s first and largest form of urbanism. An immense city, hidden by lush vegetation, whose discovery changes the history of the people who populated the Amazon. The protagonists of the incredible discovery were scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and the University of Puerto Rico, who described the discovery in the journal Science.
In the article, the team of researchers led by Stephen Rostain presents several pieces of evidence on the existence of a civilization based on agriculture that lived around 2,500 years ago in the Upano area of Ecuador, a region on the eastern slopes of the Andes. According to experts, this society represents the first and largest example of agrarian urbanism documented so far in the Amazon.
The characteristics of these urban systems are reminiscent of those discovered in Central America and dating back to the Mayan era. To locate them, scientists used a mapping and detection system called “Lidar”, which allows the identification of structures, squares, paths and roads, with over 6000 platforms of anthropogenic origin and river drainages within the detection area, which it covered approximately 300 square kilometers. At least 15 distinct settlement sites of various sizes based on clusters of urban formations have also been identified.
As experts report, one of the most interesting aspects is represented by the road network on a regional scale, very extensive and complex, which connects urban centers with peripheral areas. According to analyses, the construction and occupation of the platforms and roads dates back to the period between 500 BC and 300-600 AD. Scientists believe that the complex was inhabited by groups of the Kilamope and later Upano cultures. “Our discovery – concludes Rostain – constitutes a further example of how the environmental and cultural heritage of the Amazon is underestimated. We are convinced that it is necessary to review our preconceptions about the Amazonian world and reinterpret contexts and environments in the light of a more inclusive and participatory”.