Parts of the Amazon thought uninhabited were actually home to up to a million people

March 27, 2018, University of Exeter
Aerial photo of one of the structures at Jacó Sá site. Credit: University of Exeter

Parts of the Amazon previously thought to have been almost uninhabited were really home to thriving populations of up to a million people, new research shows.

Archaeologists have uncovered that there were hundreds of villages in the rainforest away from major rivers, and they were home to different communities speaking varied languages who had an impact on the environment around them.

Huge parts of the Amazon are still unexplored by , particularly areas away from major rivers. People had assumed ancient communities had preferred to live near these waterways, but the new evidence shows this was not the case.

The discovery fills a major gap in the history of the Amazon, and provides further evidence that the rainforest—once thought to be untouched by human farming or occupation—has in fact been heavily influenced by those who lived in it.

Archaeologists from the University of Exeter found the remains of fortified villages and mysterious earthworks called geoglyphs—man-made ditches with strange square, circular or hexagonal shapes. Experts still don't know the purpose of these earthworks, as some show no evidence of being occupied. It is possible they were used as part of ceremonial rituals.

Ditched enclosures of the UTB. Credit: University of Exeter

Archaeologists uncovered the remains in the current Brazillian state of Mato Grosso. By analysing charcoal remains and excavated pottery they have found a 1,800 km stretch of southern Amazonia was continuously occupied from 1250 until 1500 by people living in fortified villages. The experts estimate that there would have been between 1,000 and 1,500 enclosed villages, and two-thirds of these sites are yet to be found.

The new study shows there are an estimated 1,300 geoglyphs across 400,000km2 of Southern Amazonia, with 81 found in the area surveyed as part of this research. Villages are often found nearby, or inside the geoglyphs. They are connected through a network of causeways and some have been elaborately constructed over many years.

The earthworks were probably made during seasonal droughts, which allowed forests to be cleared. Drier still had fertile soils, where farmers would have been able to grow crops and fruit trees like Brazil nuts.

Dr Jonas Gregorio de Souza, from the University of Exeter's Department of Archaeology, a member of the research team said: "There is a common misconception that the Amazon is an untouched landscape, home to scattered, nomadic communities. This is not the case. We have found that some populations away from the major rivers are much larger than previously thought, and these people had an impact on the environment which we can still find today.

Compound structure with a small enclosure in the interior of a larger one. Credit: University of Exeter

"The Amazon is crucial to regulating the Earth's climate, and knowing more about its history will help everyone make informed decisions about how it should be cared for in the future."

Professor José Iriarte, from the University of Exeter, another member of the research team, said: "We are so excited to have found such a wealth of evidence. Most of the Amazon hasn't been excavated yet, but studies such as ours mean we are gradually piecing together more and more information about the history of the largest rainforest on the planet

"Our research shows we need to re-evaluate the history of the Amazon. It certainly wasn't an area populated only near the banks of large rivers, and the people who lived there did change the landscape. The area we surveyed had a population of at least tens of thousands."

The research, funded by National Geographic and the European Research Council project PAST, is published in the journal Nature Communications and was carried out by academics from the University of Exeter, Federal University of Pará, Belém, National Institute for Space Research—INPE and the Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso.

Explore further: Hundreds of ancient earthworks built in the Amazon

More information: Jonas Gregorio de Souza et al, Pre-Columbian earth-builders settled along the entire southern rim of the Amazon, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03510-7

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14 comments

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spteso
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 27, 2018
Which also implies that millions of Amazonian people were most likely killed as a result of the invasion by the Europeans.
grandpa
2.5 / 5 (8) Mar 27, 2018
The amazon does not regulate climate. It has an affect on the climate.
eric96
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 27, 2018
Location Location Location

Not just the house, but the surroundings which are merely dependent on "What time is it?"
A swamp will at some point in time become a desert.
Suppose there was a war, and they were all slaughtered, why didn't they live there? You say, they had a better place elsewhere. And what made that possible; time. Basically, Time + Place = Circumstance Which is why if you ever use a time machine, both must be exact if you are to travel to the reality you expect. This merely stepping through a portal is science fiction since no portal can at a single point in time offer access to any point in the universe. So predictable time travel is much more difficult than time travel itself. With that being said, how then do we define reality? Reality is simply that which faiths are linked. So everything on earth, its faiths are linked essentially by gravity.
Gigel
5 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2018
Which also implies that millions of Amazonian people were most likely killed as a result of the invasion by the Europeans.

"Most likely" is an exaggeration. In 1500 Europeans had hardly any influence in the Amazon forest. The European presence there came later and it didn't probably affect local populations for a long time. It was hard to get inland, far from the river.
IronhorseA
1 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2018
Actually, some of these sites were discovered about a hundred years ago by and adventurer who then continued further into the jungle and never returned.
eric96
1 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2018
If you go back in time and make a change, you have rewritten history for earth, but only that reality will be remembered. This and fact that going faster than the speed of light is daunting if not almost impossible means its probably easier to jump realities than to time travel. Adding to the definition of reality, you'll notice a reality is much more predictable (stable) than say quantum physics. That means any alternate reality (rather than alternate universe) would also be predictable (stable), so then how could we ever tell apart one reality from another. For all we know, we may be swimming in them all. There has to be an additional parameter, or better worded; more dimensions.
Cusco
4.4 / 5 (8) Mar 27, 2018
Francisco de Orellana and his team descended the Amazon in the 1540s and reported thriving civilizations along the banks of the river. Twenty years later, when the next expedition visited the region, only rotting ruins of towns and fields rapidly being reclaimed by jungle were found, and subsequent expeditions found only jungle. For many years it was commonly accepted that Orellana had fabricated much of the story, since "obviously" no one would have been able to build towns much less entire civilizations in the deep Amazon.

For some reason the Amazonian native peoples seem to have been extraordinarily susceptible to European diseases, and the first contact between the civilizations was also the last as they were engulfed in what is sometimes called "the Great Dying". Carbon sequestered by the resultant reforestation may have contributed to the Little Ice Age.
Shootist
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 27, 2018
Which also implies that millions of Amazonian people were most likely killed as a result of the invasion by the Europeans.


Always the result when a superior civilization meets an inferior one.
Cusco
2 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2018
+Shootist - Yes, too often the inferior one wins out, like in the Americas.
DudamusMaximus
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2018
Did you know that we are raising CO2 Levels by 2ppm every year? Most people do not know how much fossil fuels we are actually burning. I'll let you in on the secret. We burn more fossil fuels every year than if we burned every single living thing above the water live, every year. Here's the explanation in layman terms. Forest only cover 7% of the earth. Most of the earth is inhospitable oceans, deserts, polar and glacial regions, or vast grasslands. If you took the forest and compressed it, and dewatered it, and drove out all the nitrogen and potassium and potash, etc., etc. it would only make a layer of coal 1 inch thick. Coal is really compressed. When you look through the forest in the winter time there isn't really much too it without all those leaves blocking the view. Now spread that coal over the entire planet, including the oceans, and it is less than a tenth of an inch thick. Now burn all that coal and dilute it with 100,000 feet of atmosphere (1.2M inches).
Thorium Boy
1 / 5 (3) Mar 28, 2018
What rubbish. 1M people and they leave essentially ZERO evidence of their existence. This reminds me of lunatic theories about civilizations rising and falling akin to our present one in advancement, leaving not one iota of evidence. Western civilization if it evaporates along with the rest of the modern world will leave clear evidence that will last until the sun goes nova.
granville583762
3 / 5 (2) Mar 30, 2018
Weren't they a race of pygmy people, theirs a variety of pygmy people in parts of Africa, 2million people leave human remains, burials of skeleton remains, jewellery, ornaments, cooking implements, artwork. Where ever people settle in millions of numbers their presence is impossible to hide through the millennia as even the Stone Age Neanderthals left their art work in caves 65thousand years ago https://www.natur...-02357-8 so the millions of natives of the Amazon have left their indisputable indelible mark.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2018
For some reason the Amazonian native peoples seem to have been extraordinarily susceptible to European diseases, and the first contact between the civilizations was also the last as they were engulfed in what is sometimes called "the Great Dying". Carbon sequestered by the resultant reforestation may have contributed to the Little Ice Age
THAT is an interesting conjecture.
+Shootist - Yes, too often the inferior one wins out, like in the Americas
I dunno. The Eucharist is not ACTUAL ritual cannibalism.

But conquistadors take heart! The pope just declared that there is no hell.
http://www.breitb...al-hell/

- No soul left to burn. I guess the promise of eternal retribution against idolators and apostates is not as satisfying for the pious as it used to be.

Or maybe Jesus developed a conscience? Doubtful.
Urgelt
5 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2018
Otto unwisely stated, "But conquistadors take heart! The pope just declared that there is no hell.
http://www.breitb...al-hell/

Really? You want to cite Breitbart as a trusted source?

This claim is unproven. It comes from one 93-year-old Italian atheist who has, in the past, garbled his recollections on other subjects. He took no notes, had no recording device, had no other witnesses and admitted that what he wrote and what the Pope actually said likely diverge.

https://www.snope...t-exist/

Quoting from Snopes: ""Francis has a clear public record on the subject (of Hell) — he actually talks about Hell more frequently than any pope in recent memory, and he has never left any doubt that he regards it as a real possibility for one's eternal destiny."

Don't cite Breitbart for anything, it's dumb. They don't give a fudge if what they say is true. All they care about is riling up the conservative base. They're trolls.

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