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How the “lost cities” of the Amazon were finally found

And why they were so hard to see

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The Amazon has always been one of the most mysterious places on earth.

When European colonizers arrived in the 16th century, they were captivated by rumors of a golden city, hidden somewhere in the rainforest. Their search for “El Dorado” lasted more than a century, but only resulted in disaster, death, and further conquest of the indigenous people there.

Experts thereafter looked at the Amazon and saw only a desolate jungle; too harsh for extensive agriculture and therefore sparsely populated. They believed that it had always been this way.

Until recently.

Beginning in the late 20th century, archaeologists began looking more closely at the forest floor. Working with the indigenous people who still remained there, they excavated long ditches and mounds. After mapping them, they could see that these were the markings of large settlements; walls, moats, plazas, and roads that connected even more settlements. And they were all over the Amazon.

Further reading:

The Lost City of Z, David Grann
Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z, Percy Fawcett

The works of Michael Heckenberger; https://anthro.ufl.edu/2013/09/29/heckenberger/

Lidar reveals pre-Hispanic low-density urbanism in the Bolivian Amazon https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04780-4

The geoglyph sites of Acre, Brazil: 10 000-year-old land-use practices and climate change in Amazonia https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antiquity/article/geoglyph-sites-of-acre-brazil-10-000yearold-landuse-practices-and-climate-change-in-amazonia/6E74670EB776FB3DE3EE426A87847C33

Predicting pre-Columbian anthropogenic soils in Amazonia https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2013.2475

The Lore of Lost Cities – Imagining The Lost City Of Z https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidanderson/2019/04/30/the-lore-of-lost-cities-imagining-the-lost-city-of-z/?sh=2114a4fc4862

Once Hidden by Forest, Carvings in Land Attest to Amazon’s Lost World

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