express– The long-lost villages, believed to have been built between 1300 and 1700 AD were discovered in Brazil’s south Acre State. Cutting-edge remote sensing equipment mounted onto helicopters was responsible for the remarkable find.
A team including archaeology experts from Exeter University, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, Federal University of Pará, Federal University of Acre and the Brazil National Institute for Space Research were involved in the study.
The consistent and distinctive arrangement of the circular villages suggests the ancient Acreans had both specific and sophisticated social models for the way their communities were organised.
Light Detection and Ranging (LiDar) was the method used to spot the villages hidden beneath thick tree canopy.
This remote sensing used light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges to the Earth.
The differences in the pulsed laser return-times and wavelengths were used to create a three dimensional digital map by removing obscuring features capable of covering geological and archaeological features.
Professor Jose Iriarte from Exeter University said: “Lidar has allowed us to detect these villages, and their features such as roads, which wasn’t possible before because most are not visible within the best satellite data available.
“The technology helps to show diverse and complex construction history of this part of the Amazon.
“LiDar provides a new opportunity to locate and document earthen sites in forested parts of Amazonia characterised by dense vegetation.
“It can also document the smallest surficial earthen features in the recently opened pasture areas.”
The circular villages were shown to connect via a network spread over many miles through paired sunken roads.
Tall banks are seen radiating from the village circle in a manner resembling a clock face or rays of the Sun.
More than 35 villages have so far been confirmed, mainly consisting of three to 32 mounds arranged in a circle.
In total, these demonstrate a more complex and spatially-organised landscape than previously thought possible in this culture.
Deforestation in the Amazon had previously revealed the presence of large geoglyph earthworks on the Amazonian landscape.
And previous archaeological studies have also revealed the presence of circular mound villages.
But the true extent of earthwork constructions, their architectural layouts, and their regional organisation is only now beginning to become clearer.
The news coincides with the discovery of thousands of prehistoric cave paintings in the Colombian stretch of the Amazon.
Archaeologists described the finding as the “Sistine Chapel of the ancients”.
Based the age of the paintings on the contents of the drawings, experts estimate the artwork to be at least 12,500 years old.
The rock art includes depictions of a prehistoric mastodon, a giant elephant which lived in South America until its extinction approximately 12,000 years ago.
Professor Iriarte, who was also involved in this study, said: “When you’re there, your emotions flow… We’re talking about several tens of thousands of paintings.
“It’s going to take generations to record them… Every turn you do, it’s a new wall of paintings.
“We started seeing animals that are now extinct. The pictures are so natural and so well made that we have few doubts that you’re looking at a horse, for example.”