Category Archives: BOLIVIA

Laser mapping reveals the oldest Amazonian cities, built 2500 years ago

Laser mapping reveals the oldest Amazonian cities, built 2500 years ago

Laser mapping reveals the oldest Amazonian cities, built 2500 years ago
A lidar map of the city of Kunguints in the Ecuadorian Amazon reveals ancient streets lined with houses.

Archaeologists once believed the ancient Amazon rainforest was an inhospitable place, sparsely populated by bands of hunter-gatherers. But the remains of enormous earthworks, pyramids, and roads from Bolivia to Brazil discovered over the past two decades have proved conclusively that the Amazon was home to large, complex societies long before European colonizers arrived. Now, there’s evidence that another human society—the oldest yet—left its mark on the region: A dense network of interconnected cities, now hidden beneath the forest in Ecuador’s Upano Valley, has been revealed by the laser mapping technology called lidar.

The settlements, described today in Science, are at least 2500 years old, more than 1000 years older than any other known complex Amazonian society.

Lidar, which allows researchers to see through forest cover and reconstruct the ancient sites below, “is revolutionizing our understanding of the Amazon in pre-Columbian times,” says Carla Jaimes Betancourt, an archaeologist at the University of Bonn who wasn’t involved in the new work.

Finding such an ancient urban network in the Upano Valley highlights the long-unrecognized diversity of ancient Amazonian cultures, which archaeologists are just beginning to be able to reconstruct.

Stéphen Rostain, an archaeologist at CNRS, France’s national research agency, began excavating in the Upano Valley nearly 30 years ago. His team focused on two large settlements, called Sangay and Kilamope, and found mounds organized around central plazas, pottery decorated with paint and incised lines, and large jugs holding the remains of the traditional maize beer chicha.

Radiocarbon dates showed the Upano sites were occupied from around 500 B.C.E. to between 300 C.E. and 600 C.E. “I knew that we had a lot of mounds, a lot of structures,” Rostain says. “But I didn’t have a complete overview of the region.”

That changed when Ecuador’s National Institute for Cultural Heritage funded a lidar survey of the valley in 2015. Specially equipped planes beamed laser pulses into the forest and measured their return path, revealing topographic features otherwise invisible under the trees.

The lidar data allowed Rostain and his collaborators to see the connections between settlements and also uncovered many more. “Each day it was Christmas, with a new gift,” Rostain says. The team identified five large settlements and 10 smaller ones across 300 square kilometers in the Upano Valley, each densely packed with residential and ceremonial structures.

The cities are interspersed with rectangular agricultural fields and surrounded by hillside terraces where people planted crops, including the corn, manioc, and sweet potato found in past excavations. Wide, straight roads connected the cities to one another, and streets ran between houses and neighborhoods within each settlement. “We’re talking about urbanism,” says co-author Fernando Mejía, an archaeologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador.

A large complex of earthen platforms in Nijiamanch, one of the urban settlements in the Upano Valley.

Although the researchers don’t yet know how many people lived in the Upano Valley, the settlements were large: The core area of Kilamope, for example, covers an area comparable in size to the pyramid-studded Giza Plateau in Egypt or the main avenue of Teotihuacan in Mexico.

The extent of Upano’s landscape modification rivals the “garden cities” of the Classic Maya, the authors say. And what’s been discovered so far “is just the tip of the iceberg” of what could be found in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Mejía says.

The network of roads connecting the Upano sites suggests they all existed at the same time. They are a millennium older than other complex Amazonian societies, including Llanos de Mojos, a recently discovered ancient urban system in Bolivia.

The Upano Valley cities were denser and more interconnected than sites in Llanos de Mojos, Rostain says. “We say ‘Amazonia,’ but we should say ‘Amazonias,’” to capture the region’s ancient cultural diversity, he says.

The details of each culture, however, are still coming into view. People in both the Upano Valley and Llanos de Mojos were farmers who built roads, canals, and large civic or ceremonial buildings. But, “We’re just beginning to understand how these cities were functioning,” including how many people lived in them, who they traded with, and how they were governed, says Jaimes Betancourt, who studies Llanos de Mojos.

So it’s too soon to compare the Upano cities with societies such as the Classic Maya and Teotihuacan, which were “much more complex and more extensive,” says Thomas Garrison, an archaeologist and geographer at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in lidar and wasn’t involved in the work. Still, he says, “It’s amazing that we can still make these kinds of discoveries on our planet and find new complex cultures in the 21st century.”

Cal Orcko: A 300 Feet Wall With Over 5,000 Dinosaur Footprints

Cal Orcko: A 300 Feet Wall With Over 5,000 Dinosaur Footprints

There’s a wall in Bolivia that’s covered in thousands of dinosaur footprints, and it’s becoming a major tourist attraction

On the outskirts of the city of Sucre, in Bolivia, is a large cement plant, and when the quarry it uses was being expanded, workers discovered a huge vertical wall of rock with thousands of dinosaur footprints.

The site is called Cal Orcko (also spelled Cal Orko) and it´s the largest concentration of dinosaur tracks in the world.

The slab of limestone is enormous – 1.2 km long and 80 meters high, and has more than 5,000 footprints, with 462 individual trails made during the second half of the Cretaceous period.

The location used to be the shore of a former lake, that attracted a large number of herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs.

The creatures’ feet sank into the soft shoreline in warm damp weather, leaving marks that were solidified by later periods of drought. Wet weather then returned, sealing the prints below mud and sediment.

The wet-dry pattern was repeated seven times, preserving multiple layers of prints. Tectonic upheaval then pushed the flat ground up at the brilliant viewing angle that it is today.

Dinosaur footprints were first discovered in Cal Orcko by miners in 1985, but it was only between 1994 and 1998 that its importance was fully realized when a scientific team led by Swiss paleontologist Christian Meyer investigated the wall and certified the bed.

According to Christian Meyer, the discovery is an enormous contribution to humanity and to science, revealing data heretofore unknown and “documenting the high diversity of dinosaurs better than any other site in the world”.

The study of these footprints provided much information about the social behavior of dinosaurs. For example, it is possible to observe two lines of big footprints, with small footprints between them indicating that some baby dinosaurs were growing with their parents who protected their offspring.

The most spectacular track, however, is a 347 meters long line of prints belonging to a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex nicknamed “Johnny Walker” by researchers.

For the preservation of this site, a Cretaceous Park was opened in 2006 where there are exact replicas of the different species of dinosaurs that left their mark on the place, a museum, and a viewing platform 150 meters from the rock face.

It’s from this vantage point that you truly grasp the sheer scale and magnitude of Cal Orko.

More than 100 pre-Hispanic religious sites linked to ancient Andean cults discovered in Bolivia

More than 100 pre-Hispanic religious sites linked to ancient Andean cults were discovered in Bolivia

More than 100 pre-Hispanic religious sites linked to ancient Andean cults were discovered in Bolivia
Photographs of the walled concentric sites in the Rio Lauca area of Carangas.

A trio of archaeologists from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council, Argentina, the French National Center for Scientific Research, and the Institute of Research for Development, France, has found more than 100 pre-Hispanic religious sites that they believe are linked to ancient Andean cults in Bolivia.

In their paper published in the journal Antiquity, Pablo Cruz, Richard Joffre and Jean Vacher, describe the sites they found and highlight one in particular that stood out from the rest.

In this new effort, the researchers were studying hilltops in the Carangas region of Highland Bolivia, which was once home to pre-Hispanic people.

By studying images captured by satellites and also examining multiple sites on the ground, the researchers learned more about the sites and to make some guesses regarding their nature and use.

The sites were concentric circles of walls created on hilltops using mostly local material. Most sites featured multiple circles. In all, the research team was able to identify 135 such hilltop sites—all were dated to between AD 1250 and 1600.

They note that the large numbers of ceramic fragments found at all of the sites had once been part of plates, jars or bowls—this, they suggest, indicates that the sites had served a ceremonial purpose.

Prior research has shown that the people of the region conducted rites known as wak’a, which could have been related to the rings on the hilltops.

photograph and site plan of Waskiri.

The group also found one site, Waskiri, that stood out from the others due to both its size and intricacy. It was 140 meters in diameter and was made using two circled walls, one inside the other, the second somewhat smaller.

The two rings were connected by adjoining enclosures and contained many ceramic fragments. Also, there was what the researchers describe as a plaza at the center of the ring structure, which also featured ceramic fragments.

According to the researchers, the design of the circles suggests they may have had an Incan influence.

The team says the sites represent a rich area of study for a part of the Andes that has not been studied well due to its harsh, cold climate.

Enduring Mystery Surrounds the Ancient Site of Puma Punku

Enduring Mystery Surrounds the Ancient Site of Puma Punku

High up the Bolivian altiplano,’ south of Lake Titicaca and the ancient complex of Tiahuanaco, we find the ancient ruins of Puma Punku.

Believed to have been erected by the ancient Tiwanaku culture in the bronze age, between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago, the ancient site is home to some of the most fascinating ancient stone structures on the surface of the planet.

Shrouded in mystery, the archaeological site of Puma Punku is one of the biggest headaches for mainstream archaeologists who are unable to explain how ancient cultures cut and shaped granite stone to incredible precision, transported blocks of stones that weigh more than 50 tons, and placed them in a position like a puzzle so that not a single sheet of paper can fit between them.

But if that wasn’t enough of a mystery, there’s that LITTLE magnetic anomaly present at Puma Punku.

The question that arises here is… how on Earth did the ancients transport these massive blocks of stone, tens of tons in weight across 70 kilometres from their quarry to Puma Punku?

Puma Punku: reconstruction

The Magnetic Anomaly

This mysterious feature which makes Puma Punku even stranger was spotted by researcher and author Brien Foerster.

In a video uploaded onto his YouTube account, Brien Foerster takes us on a trip to the Bolivian Altiplano where he tours through Puma Punku and shows us how certain rocks at the site – Puma Punku’s Grey Stones – display magnetic anomalies.

These curious features have been completely ignored and left unattended by scholars who have studied Puma Punku in the past.

Here is another video where we can see the curious magnetic anomaly present on the grey stones of Puma Punku.

Still, think Puma Punku is just another ordinary ancient site? Think again.

Limestone Wall In Bolivia Has Over 10,000 Dinosaur Footprints Belonging To 10 Different Species

Limestone Wall In Bolivia Has Over 10,000 Dinosaur Footprints Belonging To 10 Different Species

Cal Orcko is a small town that is situated three miles south of the city of Sucre in Bolivia. It is home to the largest and most spectacular collection of dinosaur footprints of the Cretaceous era.

Even though the site remained closed for almost eight years after this paleontological discovery, it has been opened for visitors now.

A 300-foot-long limestone wall is located in Cal Orko, Bolivia, that has over 10,000 dinosaur footprints etched on it. The footprints belong to approximately 10 different dinosaur species that walked the earth about 68 million years ago. A 1.2-kilometre-long and 80-meter-high wall exists in Bolivia’s Cal Orko. The wall is a limestone slab that dates back to the dinosaur era.

Limestone Wall

It is covered with numerous dinosaur tracks that experts believe belong to approximately ten different species of dinosaurs. Currently, more than 10,000 individual dinosaur footprints have been identified on the limestone wall.

Christian Meyer, a Swiss palaeontologist, once commented that in 1998, they were able to recover only around 3,000 dinosaur tracks. Then in 2007, the number of footprints rose to 5,000, and in the latest survey, they have encountered over 10,000 individual dinosaur footprints in the limestone slab.

The most prominent tracks on the limestone wall are those of the quadrupedal titanosaurs. The tracks of the bipedal, carnivorous dinosaurs can also be found across the entire wall.

Other dinosaur species whose footprints were found on the wall include the theropods, ornithopods, ankylosaurs, and quadrupedal ornithopods.

The wall gives an impression that the dinosaurs were walking vertically. But in reality, the wall was originally the floor of a shallow lake from the Cretaceous period. It was due to tectonic movements that the floor became vertical.

Since the limestone slab is almost vertical, it gives the impression that the dinosaurs were walking vertically, like lizards on a wall. But experts have provided a more logical explanation. The limestone slab was originally the floor of a shallow lake of the Cretaceous era that once flowed through South America.

According to geologists, the floor of the lake has moved several times as a result of tectonic plate movement. Sixty-eight million years ago, the floor was walked upon by hundreds of dinosaurs leaving behind their footprints in the process.

The unique climate fluctuations at Cal Orko, Bolivia are believed to be the reason behind the spectacular presence of paleontological remains.

Why is it that there is such a concentration of dinosaurs remains in this area? Experts believe that it has something to do with the unique climatic fluctuations of the area. The large feet of the dinosaurs sank into the mushy shoreline of the lake that used to exist there.

When drought hit the area, the tracks solidified. Wet weather returned once again and sealed the footprints below layers of sediment and mud. Experts believe that this wet-dry pattern was repeated as many as seven times which led to the prints getting preserved on the floor of the lake.

And the best part was that tectonic activities shifted the floor into a vertical viewing angle, enabling this wonderful paleontological spectacle to be viewed by the species that continued living on this planet after the dinosaurs.

The Cal Orko Parque Cretacico hosts a museum, and models of dinosaurs, fossils, and related paleontological information and offers a guided, one-hour tour to a few selected areas of the dinosaur footprint wall.

Today, guided tours are offered to visitors to get a glimpse of the dinosaur footprints. Visitors are provided with a helmet as a safety requirement because of the cement factory that is located near the wall.

The guides point out the footprints of the Theropods (carnivorous dinosaurs) and Sauropods (long-neck herbivores). Lengths of the footprint trackways range from 26 feet to as long as an amazing 65 feet.

This amazing limestone slab serves as a record and offers a glimpse of the ever-changing history that took place in the Cretaceous era.

Lost cities of the Amazon featuring terraces and PYRAMIDS are discovered

Lost cities of the Amazon featuring terraces and PYRAMIDS are discovered

A massive urban landscape that contained interconnected campsites, villages, towns and monumental centres thrived in the Amazon rainforest more than 600 years ago.

In what is now Bolivia, members of the Casarabe culture built an urban system that included straight, raised causeways running for several kilometres, canals and reservoirs, researchers report May 25 in Nature.

Such low-density urban sprawl from pre-Columbian times was previously unknown in the Amazon or anywhere else in South America, say archaeologist Heiko Prümers of the German Archaeological Institute in Bonn and colleagues.

Rather than constructing huge cities densely packed with people, a substantial Casarabe population spread out in a network of small to medium-sized settlements that incorporated plenty of open space for farming, the scientists conclude.

Airborne lasers peered through dense trees and ground cover to identify structures from that low-density urban network that have long eluded land-based archaeologists.

Earlier excavations indicated that Casarabe maize farmers, fishers and hunters inhabited an area of 4,500 square kilometres. For about a century, researchers have known that Casarabe people fashioned elaborate pottery and constructed large earthen mounds, causeways and ponds. But these finds were located at isolated forest sites that are difficult to excavate, leaving the reasons for mound-building and the nature of Casarabe society, which existed from about the year 500 to 1400, a mystery.

Prümers’ team opted to look through the Amazon’s lush cover from above, aiming to find relics of human activity that typically remain hidden even after careful ground surveys.

The scientists used a helicopter carrying special equipment to fire laser pulses at the Amazon forest as well as stretches of grassland. Those laser pulses reflect data from the Earth’s surface. This technique, called light detection and ranging, or lidar for short, enables researchers to map the contours of now-obscured structures.

Looking at the new lidar images, “it is obvious that the mounds are platforms and pyramids standing on artificial terraces at the centre of well-planned settlements,” Prümers says.

Lost cities of the Amazon featuring terraces and PYRAMIDS are discovered
The Lidar images revealed the cities architecture, consisting of stepped platforms topped by U-shaped structures, rectangular platform mounds, and conical pyramids
Two images of exactly the same area of the Salvatierra site. Left: a photo mosaic from drone footage; right: Lidar image. The discovery shows Amazonia was home to an early ‘urbanism’ created and managed by indigenous populations for thousands of years

Prümers’ team conducted lidar surveys over six parts of ancient Casarabe territory. The lidar data revealed 26 sites, 11 of them previously unknown.

Two sites, Cotoca and Landívar, are much larger than the rest. Both settlements feature rectangular and U-shaped platform mounds and cone-shaped earthen pyramids atop artificial terraces. Curved moats and defensive walls border each site.

Causeways radiate out from Cotoca and Landívar in all directions, connecting those primary sites to smaller sites with fewer platform mounds that then link up to what were probably small campsites or areas for specialized activities, such as butchering prey.

Lidar Image of the Cotoca site, revealing an array of elaborate and intricate structures unlike any previously discovered in the region, including 16ft-high terraces covering 54 acres – the equivalent of 30 football pitches – and 69ft-tall conical pyramids

The Casarabe society’s network of settlements joins other ancient and present-day examples of low-density urban sprawl around the world, says archaeologist Roland Fletcher of the University of Sydney.

These sites raise questions about whether only places with centralized governments that ruled over people who were packed into neighbourhoods on narrow streets, such as 6,000-year-old Mesopotamian metropolises, can be defined as cities.

Some past urban settlements organized around crop growing spanned up to 1,000 square kilometres or more in tropical regions. These include locales such as Southeast Asia’s Greater Angkor roughly 700 to 800 years ago and interconnected Maya sites in Central America dating to at least 2,300 years ago. Today, extended areas outside large cities, especially in Southeast Asia, mix industrial and agricultural activities over tens of thousands of kilometres.

Clusters of interconnected Casarabe settlements ranged in area from 100 square kilometres to more than 500 square kilometres. Spread-out settlements of the comparable areas include 6,000-year-old sites from Eastern Europe’s Trypillia culture.

Tropical forests that have gone largely unexplored, such as Central Africa’s Congo Basin, probably hosted other early forms of low-density urban development, Fletcher predicts.

Only further excavations guided by lidar evidence can begin to untangle the size of the Casarabe population, Prümers says. Whether primary Casarabe sites represented seats of power in states with upper and lower classes also remains unknown, he adds.

Casarabe culture’s urban sprawl must have encompassed a considerable number of people in the centuries before the Spanish arrived and Indigenous population numbers plummeted, largely due to diseases, forced labour and slavery says archaeologist John Walker of the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

Whatever Casarabe honchos had in mind as their tropical settlement network spread, he says, “we may have to set aside some of our strongly held ideas about what the Amazon is, and what a city is, to better understand what happened.”

Three images that prove the Ancient Builders of Puma Punku had access to advanced technology

Three images that prove the Ancient Builders of Puma Punku had access to advanced technology

Perhaps the biggest mystery involving Puma Punku is, how ancient mankind managed to transport these huge blocks of stone from quarries within 10 to 100 km.

How did they manage to achieve this type of precision cuts and how did they place the blocks in such a perfect manner? Engineers and constructors around the world today cannot answer nor replicate these achievements done by ancient mankind thousands of years ago.

Scientists cannot come to a conclusion and answer how were these amazing blocks of stone transported. Some of them believe that it was accomplished by the large labour force of ancient Tiwanaku. Several theories have been proposed as to how this labour force transported the stones from the quarries to Puma Punku, but these theories remain speculative.

Another puzzling mystery at Puma Punku is the assembly of the walls. Each stone was finely cut to interlock with the surrounding stones and the blocks fit together like a puzzle, forming load-bearing joints without the use of mortar. The precision challenges today’s engineering abilities.

The answer to these and other enigmas can be solved by a different approach and different thinking methods.

By looking at images from Puma Punku you can notice a perfection that is baffling, you will notice the elegance in every single construction at Puma Punku, but most importantly, you will notice a mysterious pattern that could help explain how ancient man achieved all of this, thousands of years ago.

Three images that prove the Ancient Builders of Puma Punku had access to advanced technology

This image is one of the best examples of advanced technology present at Puma Punku. We are looking at andesite blocks, a material that is extremely difficult to work with.

Can anyone explain how ancient mankind managed such perfection, elegance, and precision? We believe that this is one of the best examples of highly advanced tools that were made available to ancient man, thousands of years ago.

One of our favourite images of Puma Punku is where you can see small holes that are placed with such perfection apart that it is hard to believe that primitive man achieved this with sticks and stones.

Puma Punku is one of the most important places if you want to see what ancient man was capable of. These stone structures are among the biggest ever found.

The H Blocks. A trademark of Puma Punku and perhaps one of the best examples of lost technology. The perfection present within these blocks is staggering.

It is difficult to even think that ancient mankind managed to cut, transport and stack these blocks of stone which such perfection without the use of some sort of technology. Not everything can be achieved through force.

What do you think? Is it possible that the ancient builders of Puma Punku and Tiahuanaco had access to advanced technology that has been lost in history? A forgotten, omitted piece of history that mainstream scholars do not seem to be interested in?

Archaeologists discover an underground pyramid in Bolivia

Archaeologists discover an underground pyramid in Bolivia

The government of Bolivia announced it will start exploratory excavations this year at the ancient fortress of Tiahuanaco after a buried pyramid was detected.

Excavations at the pyramid of Akapana, Tiahuanaco

Ludwing Cayo, director of the Tiahuanaco Archeological Research Center, told Efe that the formation is located in the area of Kantatallita, east of the Akapana pyramid.

In a presentation for the media, Cayo outlined a five-year for further research at Tiahuanaco, an archaeological site 71 kilometers (44 miles) west of La Paz that was the cradle of an ancient civilization predating the Incas.

The Akapana Pyramid Mound, Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

Excavations may start soon, depending on the timing of cooperation agreements with foreign universities and institutes to enroll more forensic archaeology experts in the effort, Cayo said.

Besides the pyramid, ground-penetrating radar has detected “a number of underground anomalies” that might be monoliths, but those findings require more detailed analysis.

Tiahuanaco was the capital of a pre-Columbian empire known as Tiwanaku that left a legacy of impressive stone monuments such as Kalasasaya, the semi-underground Template, sculptures of prominent figures, the Gate of the Sun, and ruins of palaces.

Bolivian researchers say Tiahuanaco began as an agricultural village around 1580 B.C. and grew to become an imperial state by A.D. 724, but was in decline by the late 12th century.

At its peak, the Tiwanaku realm occupied over 600,000 square kilometers (231,000 square miles).

Tiahuanaco has been a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site since 2000.

The Gateway of the Sun from the Tiwanku civilization in Bolivia.

It was the capital of an empire that extended into present-day Peru and Chile, flourishing from 300 to 1000 A.D., and is believed to be one of the most important cities of ancient America.  Andean legends claim the area around Lake Titicaca was the cradle of the first humans on Earth.

According to the myths, Lord Viracocha, the creator of all things, chose Tiahuanaco as the place of creation. It is unknown how old these ruins are, but some researchers suggest that they date to 14,000 years B.C.

Fox News Latino writes that at its height, the Tiwanaku realm covered 600,000 square kilometers (231,000 square miles), and “left a legacy of impressive stone monuments such as Kalasasaya, the semi-underground Template, sculptures of prominent figures, the Gate of the Sun and ruins of palaces.”

Previous excavations at the site have revealed substantial portions of the Akapana Pyramid Mound.

Previous excavations: Robotic exploration of a tunnel in the Akapana pyramid, June 13, 2006.

Archaeology’s InteractiveDig writes that in the ancient past there is evidence that the established infrastructure was razed and rebuilt by the inhabitants, and the city was abandoned.

Researchers say there was a sudden shift in 700 A.D. Previous monuments were torn down, and the blocks were used to build the Akapana Pyramid. However, by the time the city was abandoned, the project had still not been completed and laid unfinished.