1231 GMT December 16, 2019
Albert Lin, an explorer for National Geographic, along with Adan Cheque Arce and Thomas Hardy, both archeologists, used a revolutionary technology known as LiDar (light detection and ranging) to expose the full extent of the city, express.co.uk wrote.
They found a settlement that rests in an archeological zone known as Wat’a, translated from the indigenous language of the land to “island”.
This “island” is at an altitude of 13,000 feet, around 5,000 feet higher than the monstrously tall Machu Picchu, the crowning glory of the Inca civilization.
It is thought to have been inhabited by the Incas before they built their city, or, inhabited by the people who came before, often known as the pre-Incas.
Lin said: "It is very challenging to get there.
“You're at around 13,000 feet of elevation and its mostly open landscape because there's not a lot of trees around, so you're basically baking in the high altitude sun, all the way up."
"When you're up there, you have these grand vistas—all the surrounding mountains that are really gorgeous—and the site itself, which sits above that mountain, is a perfect viewpoint down to all the different valleys that are coming up as a trade route, maybe possibly even towards the site that would one day become Machu Picchu."
The city has previously been investigated using traditional archeological methods, with scientists on the ground uncovering evidence of tombs, ceremonial plazas, residential areas and a large surrounding wall.
By using LiDar, however, the researchers were able to reveal a number of never before seen features of the settlement.
The nature of the landscape — blanketed in thick shrubs, forestry and cacti, often makes it difficult for ground and fieldwork to be of any benefit.
The technology essentially enabled researchers to “see through” the dense foliage, revealing layer upon layer of ancient ground.
Drones carried the LiDar technology high above the settlement to get a panoramic view.
The instruments then fired pulses of laser light towards the ground hundreds of thousands of times per second.
This data was collected and used to create detailed 3D maps to reveal the topography of the land and any ancient manmade features that are not normally visible.
The technology proved its worth, enabling the team to identify classic Inca terracing and circular structures associated with the pre-Incas.
Lin said: "In one fell swoop, we can delete that shrub and all of sudden, the whole mountain became this terrace-shaped place, just like Machu Picchu—those terraces moving all the way up, although at a smaller scale, of course, and with less detail.
“You get this sense that the pre-Inca and the Inca, they moved mountains
The settlements discovery is particularly interesting as it provides another instance of the Inca building on top of an earlier pre-Inca settlement.
The researchers also drew attention to the fact that the site was, in a way, a template for Machu Picchu.
Lin said: "See it as an evolution on their pathway towards Machu Picchu.
“I think it's quite an inspiring place to be."