Lost city found in Amazon may have housed 100,000 before being abandoned and reclaimed by rainforest

Researchers found a sprawling ancient city in eastern Ecuador, reclaimed thousands of years ago by the lush Amazon rainforest. The BBC reports that a volcano nearby provided it with rich soils but likely led to its abandonment. More than 100,000 people may have lived there.

This is older than any other site we know in the Amazon. We have a Eurocentric view of civilisation, but this shows we have to change our idea about what is culture and civilisation," says Prof Stephen Rostain, director of investigation at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, who led the research.

"It changes the way we see Amazonian cultures. Most people picture small groups, probably naked, living in huts and clearing land – this shows ancient people lived in complicated urban societies," says co-author Antoine Dorison.

Scientists used LiDAR technology—planes equipped with lasers that penetrate the tree cover and outline otherwise hidden topographical features—to reveal "6,000 rectangular platforms measuring about 20m (66 ft) by 10m (33 ft) and 2-3m high," mostly thought to be homes, collected around small plazas and connected by an extensive network of roads.

Other reports describe it as a "valley of lost cities" spread throughout the region. The implications appear to be quite spectacular: a sprawling urban civilization larger than nearby Mayan cultures.

A paper published this month in the journal Science, "Two thousand years of garden urbanism in the Upper Amazon," tops 30 years of research by Rostain et al.

A dense system of pre-Hispanic urban centers has been found in the Upano Valley of Amazonian Ecuador, in the eastern foothills of the Andes. Fieldwork and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) analysis have revealed an anthropized landscape with clusters of monumental platforms, plazas, and streets following a specific pattern intertwined with extensive agricultural drainages and terraces as well as wide straight roads running over great distances. Archaeological excavations date the occupation from around 500 BCE to between 300 and 600 CE. The most notable landscape feature is the complex road system extending over tens of kilometers, connecting the different urban centers, thus creating a regional-scale network. Such extensive early development in the Upper Amazon is comparable to similar Maya urban systems recently highlighted in Mexico and Guatemala.

CTRL-F "gold." Disappointment.

Previously: Mysterious lost city underneath the Grand Canyon