Parts of the Amazon, previously thought to be uninhabited, once held prosperous populations: up to a million people, according to new analyzes.
The vast Amazonian forest is not only a natural wonder, it is also a place of mystery and myth – a glorious backdrop to a rich history of civilizations. But this precious ecosystem is now threatened by the deadly expansion of mining endeavors. And the story today seems even richer than what was previously thought.
A team of archaeologists announces the discovery of a number of remains, which prove that there would have been at one time hundreds of villages with a total of nearly a million people living in the forest.
The study reveals that unexplored parts of the Amazon, supposedly uninhabited, were home to large populations before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, on the southern slope of the rainforest.
Following the analysis of satellite images, archaeologists from the University of Exeter (United Kingdom) discovered the remains of fortified villages and mysterious earthworks. The experts are unaware of the purpose of this work, as some show no evidence of occupation. It is possible that they were used in ceremonial rituals. In all, 81 new archaeological sites totaling 104 earthworks were discovered.
By conducting ground surveys on 24 of these sites, the researchers also discovered ceramics, polished stone axes, anthropogenic black soil (fertile soil) and mounds (domestic dumps). “There is this misconception that the Amazon would be an intact landscape inhabited by dispersed nomadic communities, which is not the case,” notes Jonas Gregorio de Souza, from the Department of Archeology, University of Exeter. “We have found that some populations far away from major rivers are much larger than previously thought and these people have had an impact on the environment that we can still find today.”
What is even more remarkable is the potential reach of this undiscovered population. The researchers’ estimates, based on the distribution and size of excavations uncovered so far, suggest an overall population of 500,000 to 1 million people that could have flourished in these previously supposedly uninhabited regions of the Amazon. These populations could then have spread over a vast area of some 400,000 square kilometers. These new discoveries lead us to rethink the history of the Amazon, the largest forest on the planet.