An unusual discovery in the jungle. A breakthrough in research

  • “We have long suspected that the most complex pre-Columbian communities in the entire basin originated in this part of the Bolivian Amazon,” said Jose Iriarte, a professor at the University of Exeter.
  • A group of mostly European archaeologists scanned the jungle with remote-controlled laser scanners mounted on a helicopter.
  • An extensive network of settlements was discovered under a dense forest. Numerous complex ceremonial structures have been discovered, including northwestern stepped platforms and U-shaped mounds.
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Of the 26 such settlements in Bolivia’s Llanos de Mojos, 11 were previously unknown to archaeologists. The two sites turned out to be unusually large. The new discovery confirms that the Amazon was not a virgin territory before the Spanish occupation – There were large, multi-dwelling settlements and complex, ancient societies.

In the late Holocene, pre-Spanish farmers in Llanos de Mojos, now in northern Bolivia, turned the seasonally flooded Amazon savannah into a fertile agricultural landscape. Casarabe culture developed in this region between 500-1400, covering an area of ​​4,500 square kilometers.

This was stated by Professor of the University of Exeter Jose Iriarte.

A network of densely forested settlements

A team of mostly European archaeologists scanned the jungle using remote laser scanners (lidars) mounted on helicopters.

Lidar is a method of measuring distance by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor. Differences in the return time of the laser beam and changes in wavelength can then be used to create a three-dimensional model. It can be achieved in a much shorter time than many years of field work.

Under the dense forest, a large network of settlements representing the first type of low-density urbanism found in the tropical plains of South America was discovered. Numerous complex ceremonial structures have been discovered, including northwestern stepped platforms and U-shaped mounds. The earth’s pyramids rose 20 meters above the surrounding savannah.

According to the authors, the scale, monumentality and spatial range of settlements in the construction of ceremonial architectural and irrigation infrastructure It can be compared to the Oath cultures and goes far beyond the interconnected settlements in the south of the Amazon.

– Archaeologist Heiko Prümers from the German Institute of Archeology writes.

A breakthrough in archaeological research

For decades, some archaeologists have speculated that the Llanos de Mojos plains in Bolivia were poor tropical lands. they failed to provide large populations and developed, urbanized civilizations.

Prumers and colleagues describe two large settlements, Cotoca and Landívar, which are the central nodes of the regional network of small settlements – a total of 24 – it is connected by still visible supports extending up to several kilometers.

“These two large settlements were already known, but their enormous size and architectural design were revealed only thanks to LIDAR research,” the authors write. According to their estimates About 570 thousand people of Casarabe culture migrated. cubic meters of land to build CotocaTen times more land than the people of Tiwanaku to build the Akapan Pyramid, the largest structure ever found in the Bolivian highlands.

The people of Kasarabel also built ditches and fortifications to protect these central settlements, as well powerful irrigation systems designed to grow food surplusArchaeologists have concluded that it could save a large population of Casarabe.

This is important because the hierarchical arrangement of urban settlements has long been considered a sign of social complexity. so far it was not often associated with the early Amazon.

The discovery of ancient artifacts in forest sediments may provide more information about Casarabe’s diet, lifestyle, and cultural experiences. However, these remnants, which consist mainly of land, are threatened by the agricultural exploitation of their territories.

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