In one of the densest parts of the Amazon jungle, “hidden” ancient pyramids and small cities dating back to the Middle Ages have been discovered , changing historical theories due to advances in laser-mapping technology.
Mind-blowing pyramids and ancient cities discovered in Amazon
Scientists are calling a new discovery “mind-blowing,” as previously unknown hidden ancient cities and pyramids have been found in the dense Bolivian rain forest thanks to a new type of laser-mapping technology that can “see” through tree canopies.
The ancient ruins of eleven previously unknown settlements, which included vast pyramids and a series of causeways, were brought to light in the southwest corner of the Amazon jungle by a team of scientists. The researchers’ breakthrough discovery was published this week in the journal Nature.
The scientists used a new type of remote-sensing technology that utilizes lasers to map the terrain from the air, Nature reported.
What researchers found
What researchers found using the LIDAR mapping system were ancient urban settlements and massive 22-meter-tall (72 feet) earthen pyramid mounds. In addition, the pyramids were encircled by kilometers of elevated roadways.
The site, located in Bolivia, is called Cotoca. The archaeologists say it was occupied by the Casarabe culture between A.D. 500 and 1400.
Researchers also uncovered another large settlement site named Landvar and 24 minor sites, 15 of which were previously unknown, Interesting Engineering reported.
Discovery changes history
One of the most groundbreaking advances made by this discovery is that it shows that long-held beliefs that the Amazon was pristine wilderness before the Europeans arrived are not true.
Researchers had long believed that, before the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century, all Amazonians lived in small, nomadic tribes, having little impact on the world around them.
The evidence shows that humans lived in the Amazon basin in advanced societies well before European visitors came along.
Team member Heiko Prümers, an archaeologist at the German Archaeological Institute called the complexity of the settlements “mind-blowing.”
What is LIDAR Mapping?
The scientists used a laser-mapping system called LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging.
There are two types of LIDAR: topographic and bathymetric. Topographic LIDAR uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric lidar uses water-penetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations, according to American Geosciences.
LIDAR works by using pulsed laser light to measure ranges (variable distances) from the source to the earth. Because of the way it operates, it is sometimes called 3D laser scanning, as it can create precise dimensional information. This technology was introduced in 1961 but has progressed significantly since then.
The LIDAR allowed scientists to “see” through the tree canopy what otherwise was hidden from view. This same technology has been used to map areas of the ocean floor using a laser specifically designed for underwater scanning.