Study Reveals More About Mysterious Earthworks Of Amazon

Posted: Feb 7 2017, 2:35am CST | by , Updated: Feb 7 2017, 2:59am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Study Reveals More about Mysterious Earthworks of Amazon
Credit: Edison Caetano

Hundreds of ancient earthworks were built by indigenous people living in the rainforest of Amazon

Hundreds of circles, squares and other geometric shapes are scattered throughout the Amazon rainforest. These massive structures that span a distance greater than hundred of meters hint at a previously unknown ancient society that lived in the Amazon. The ancient society was there long before the arrival of Europeans and even before the rainforest itself flourished.

New study, published in PNAS, provides more insight into how indigenous people arrived in the region and impacted the forest.

Amazonia earthworks, also known as geoglyphs, were originally discovered in 1980s when trees had been cut away, exposing enormous geometrical structures hidden inside the forest. But the function of these structures remains a mystery . They may have been used for defense, drainage, or perhaps performing religious rituals. Nevertheless, they indicate that earlier humans had also deforested the region.

"The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are 'pristine ecosystems,” said Jennifer Watling, post-doctoral researcher at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography.

“We immediately wanted to know whether the region was already forested when the geoglyphs were built, and to what extent people impacted the landscape to build these earthworks.”

To find out, researchers reconstructed the vegetation that covered the landscape at different times and showed that humans altered the forest’s ecology to build the geoglyphs. But instead of burning large tracts of forest, they focused on only small, temporary clearings and precisely laid out circles and squares.

These findings cast doubt on the theory that this region was deforested to a large extent in the past.

“Despite the huge number and density of geoglyph sites in the region, we can be certain that Acre's forests were never cleared as extensively, or for as long, as they have been in recent years.” Dr. Watling said.

To arrive at the conclusion, researchers extracted soil samples from a series of pits in and around geoglyphs and reconstructed the ancient vegetation, dating back to 6000 years.

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