From ancient cities to boiling rivers, the rainforests continue to amaze and mystify.
As the world’s rainforests continue to shrink due to deforestation, the vast unexplored areas they contain still hold intriguing mysteries and bizarre discoveries awaiting curious explorers.
1. Angkor: The Lost Mega City
In 1858, Henri Mouhot stumbled upon the ancient city of Angkor, hidden in the dense forests of northwest Cambodia. Comparable in size to modern-day Los Angeles, Angkor was the capital of Cambodia between the 9th and 15th centuries, boasting magnificent temples like Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, as well as an intricate network of waterways.
2. Shanay-Timpishka: The Boiling River
In 2011, geophysicist Andrés Ruzo rediscovered a four-mile stretch of water in the Amazon’s Mayantuyacu sanctuary, where temperatures range from 113°F to nearly 212°F. Geothermal energy from deep underground heats the water, which has captivated local shamans for centuries.
3. El Mirador: The Hidden Mayan Metropolis
El Mirador, a vast ancient city in northern Guatemala, was home to the Maya civilization from the 10th century BC until 200 AD. Concealed by the jungle for thousands of years, the city was finally discovered in the late 19th century. Its remote location still poses challenges for researchers seeking to uncover its secrets.
4. Stone Spheres: The Mysterious Orbs of Costa Rica
While searching for bananas in the 1930s, a US company discovered nearly 300 nearly perfect stone spheres in Costa Rica’s Diquis Valley. The purpose of these granodiorite spheres, which date back to between 200 BC and 1500 AD, remains unknown, with theories ranging from gravestones to alien artifacts.
5. Vilcabamba: The Inca Empire’s Final City
In 1909, American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered the ruins of Vilcabamba, hidden in Peru’s Espíritu Pampa rainforest. Although overshadowed by his later discovery of Machu Picchu in 1911, Vilcabamba was eventually confirmed as the last city of the Inca Empire, established in 1539 and destroyed by the Spanish in 1572.
6. Ciudad Perdida
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia, the ancient city of Ciudad Perdida, or “Lost City,” was once home to the Tayrona civilization. Dating back to the 9th century AD, this enigmatic city was abandoned during the Spanish conquest and remained hidden beneath the dense jungle until its rediscovery in 1972 by treasure hunters. The archaeological site consists of 169 terraces carved into the mountainside, connected by a network of tiled roads and several circular plazas. Although much of the city’s history remains shrouded in mystery, the rediscovery of Ciudad Perdida has opened up a new world of exploration and research into the lost Tayrona civilization.
7. Nazca Lines in the Amazon
Stretching across the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, geometric shapes, squares, and circles were uncovered in 2010 using satellite imagery and deforestation clearings. These enigmatic geoglyphs, reminiscent of the famous Nasca Lines in Peru, were possibly created by pre-Columbian indigenous populations between 1000 and 2500 years ago. The purpose of these earthworks remains a mystery, with theories ranging from ceremonial sites and astronomical alignments to agricultural practices. The discovery has challenged previous assumptions about the extent of pre-Columbian civilizations in the Amazon and their ability to transform the landscape.
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