Recent discoveries in Ecuador have uncovered the ruins of larger and older cities than ever before found in the vast Amazon rainforest. Using laser scanning technology, unknown culture representatives built settlement centers and roads around 2,500 years ago. The remains of thousands of stepped platforms and earthworks were mapped in the Upano valley at the foot of the Andes in eastern Ecuador. While the ruins were discovered in the 1970s, the study conducted in 2015 and published in Science has revealed the true extent of the discoveries only now.
The findings revealed settlements comparable to the more famous Mayan cities in Central America, which were open-plan “garden cities” that housed tens of thousands of people. It was previously believed that only small tribes of hunter-gatherers lived in the Amazon rainforest, but recent discoveries estimate that up to eight million people lived in the region before the arrival of Europeans. However, all the objects found at the Upano valley have been dated to more than 1,500 years old, suggesting that the cities were abandoned before the arrival of the Europeans, possibly due to volcanic eruptions that left deposits of volcanic ash in the area.