Archeologists have discovered a vast and highly complex system of ancient cities dating back nearly 3,000 years in the Amazon rainforest. Complete with a complex network of farmland and roads, the discovery is the oldest and largest of its kind in the region.

Located in Ecuador’s Upano Valley, the structures lie in the eastern foothills of the Andes mountains, according to a study published in the journal Science. After more than 20 years of research, the ancient urban centres were only discovered when the Ecuadorean government employed lidar technology.

“I have explored the site many times, but lidar gave me another view of the land,” archaeologist Stéphen Rostain, lead author of the study and director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), told Live Science. “On foot, you have trees in the way, and it’s difficult to see what’s actually hidden there.”

Read more in GPS World article.