One of our Explorer’s last year was Colonel Percy Fawcett who disappeared in the Amazon whilst trying to find the ‘Lost City of Z’. His theory of a lost civilisation in the Amazon was considered outlandish, met with derision by many of his generation.
Until recently it was assumed that the Amazon was a pristine wilderness inhabited by nomadic tribes until the Europeans arrived. Yet 97 years after the disappearance of Percy Fawcett, archaeologists have discovered a vast network of 'lost' ancient cities built by the Casarabe communities dating between 500-1400 AD hiding under the thick tree canopies of the Amazon for centuries in Bolivia.
This culture built and lived in complex urban centres with elevated causeways, walls and earthen pyramids up to 22m in height, something seen with the Egyptian & Aztec civilisations. These settlements have been discovered by deforesting the terrain using ‘lidar’ technology, where laser scanners map the terrain from planes and helicopters.
“The complexity of these settlements is mind blowing they feature an array of elaborate and intricate structures unlike any previously discovered in the region, including 5m high terraces covering the equivalent of 30 football pitches and conical pyramids 21m in height.” says team member Heiko Prümers, an archaeologist at the German Archaeological Institute headquartered in Berlin.
The international team of researchers from the UK and Germany also found a vast network of reservoirs, causeways and checkpoints, spanning several miles. 'Our lidar system has revealed built terraces, straight causeways, enclosures with checkpoints, and water reservoirs.
'There are monumental structures are just a mile apart connected by 600 miles of canals long raised causeways connecting sites, reservoirs and lakes.'
Why these settlements were abandoned after 900 years is still a mystery. Radiocarbon dating has revealed that the Casarabe disappeared around 1400 with some thinking an environmental shift might have driven people away.