Saturday, June 25, 2022

Incredible lost cities of the Amazon jungle rediscovered with “lasers in the sky”.

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The researchers used lidar scans to reveal traces of an advanced civilization hidden beneath the dense canopy of trees, challenging the accepted view of Amazonia as an “untouched” landscape

Ancient lost cities in the Amazon Basin are rediscovered thanks to “lasers in the sky”.

A team of international researchers, including Professor Jose Iriarte of the University of Exeter, has uncovered sophisticated settlements in the savannah forest of Llanos de Mojos in Bolivia, some containing 70-foot cone-shaped “pyramids”.

The settlements also had complex irrigation systems and huge terraces covering 22 hectares – the equivalent of 30 football pitches.

Built by the Casarabe communities between 500 and 1400 AD, the cities have been reclaimed by the jungle over the centuries and are now almost entirely invisible to the naked eye from the air.

But the researchers used lidar — a scanning system that works on a similar principle to radar but uses light from a laser — to reveal the jungle’s hidden secrets. The air lidar system has been described as “lasing in the sky”.

Professor Iriarte said: “We have long suspected that this part of the Bolivian Amazon developed the most complex pre-Columbian societies in the entire basin, but the evidence is hidden beneath the tree canopy and is difficult to visit in person.

“Our lidar system revealed built terraces, straight causeways, enclosures with checkpoints, and water reservoirs. There are monumental structures only a mile apart, connected by 600 miles of canals that long causeways connecting sites, reservoirs and lakes.

“Lidar technology combined with extensive archaeological research shows that indigenous peoples not only managed forested landscapes, but also created urban landscapes that can contribute significantly to prospects for Amazonian conservation.

“This region was one of the earliest human-inhabited Amazonia, where people began to domesticate crops of global importance like cassava and rice. But little is known about daily life and the early cities built during this period.”

Professor Iriarte’s co-author, Dr. Mark Robinson, who also works at the University of Exeter, added: “These ancient cities were major centers of a regional network of settlements linked by straight causeways that are still visible, radiating out into the landscape from these sites for several kilometers.”

He continued: “Access to the websites may have been restricted and controlled.

“Our results invalidate the arguments that western Amazonia was sparsely populated in pre-Hispanic times. The architectural design of the large settlement sites of the Casarabe culture indicates that the inhabitants of this region created a new social and public landscape.

“The scale, monumentality, and amount of labor involved in the construction of civil-ceremonial architecture, water management infrastructure, and the spatial spread of settlements compare favorably with Andean cultures and far exceed the highly developed, interconnected settlements of the southern out of the Amazon. ”

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