A sprawling ancient city, shrouded in secrecy for millennia beneath the dense Amazonian vegetation, has recently been unveiled by archaeologists in the Upano region of eastern Ecuador. This monumental discovery challenges prevailing notions about the historical settlement patterns within the Amazon, revealing a sophisticated urban society dating back approximately 2,500 years.
The Upano city, characterized by an intricate network of roads and canals, offers a fresh perspective on the complexities of Amazonian cultures. Contrary to prior assumptions of nomadic or small-scale settlements, this finding suggests that ancient inhabitants lived in intricate urban societies, reshaping our understanding of cultural evolution in the region.
Led by Professor Stephen Rostain from the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, the research team utilized cutting-edge LiDAR technology during a comprehensive 25-year survey. This airborne laser sensor technology uncovered 6,000 rectangular platforms, indicating dwellings and ceremonial spaces, hidden beneath the lush vegetation.
Constructed by carving into hills and forming elevated platforms, the city exhibited remarkable architectural diversity, including a 140m by 40m platform at Kilamope. The roads connecting these platforms, spanning over 25km, showcased a level of sophistication previously unrecognized in the region.
The discovery not only challenges Eurocentric views of civilization but also places the Upano city on a scale comparable to well-known societies like the Maya in Mexico and Central America. Professor José Iriarte of the University of Exeter noted that the unique features, such as octagonal and rectangular platforms, set this society apart in South America.
The intricate road network, marked by right angles and spanning vast distances, fascinated researchers, hinting at a potential ceremonial or symbolic significance. Additionally, the identification of causeways with adjacent ditches suggested the presence of canals managing water resources in the region.
Despite signs of threats, including blocked entrances and evidence of nearby conflicts, the Upano people maintained a well-organized and interconnected society. The discovery of pits, hearths, and artifacts such as jars and grinding stones provided insights into their daily lives, likely centered around agriculture, with maize, sweet potatoes, and “chicha” – a sweet beer – being staples.
Professor Rostain, reflecting on the initial skepticism surrounding his research, expressed satisfaction with the groundbreaking discovery. As the researchers set their sights on exploring the adjoining 300 sq km area, the anticipation grows for further revelations about this enigmatic ancient city concealed within the heart of the Amazon.