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Mysterious earthworks found in the Amazon

Posted on Tuesday, 7 February, 2017 | Comment icon 13 comments

What secrets from the past do the trees still conceal ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 CIAT
More than 450 large geometrical geoglyphs have been discovered in areas cleared by deforestation.
Created over 2,000 years ago by an ancient people who once lived in the region, these mysterious earthworks have cast doubt on the idea that the rainforest ecosystem had remained untouched by humans until the modern age.

The exact purpose of these structures however continues to remain a matter of some debate.

A lack of artefacts at the sites makes it unlikely that they were used for habitation and their layout suggests that they were not designed to be defensive structures either.

The most likely explanation is that they were some sort of ritual sites.

"The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are 'pristine ecosystems'," said researcher Jennifer Watling.

"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."

Source: | Comments (13)

Tags: Rainforest, Earthworks

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Parsec on 7 February, 2017, 19:37
Very interesting thread, although like others said more or less "old story".    I wonder, how old has to be a forest for being considered "virgin" or "never touched by man"?  500 years without human interference sound pretty pristine to me.
Comment icon #5 Posted by seanjo on 8 February, 2017, 15:12
I had the pleasure of touring Tikal, in Guatemala and our guide told us that if you see a mound in the Jungle covered in trees etc. the chances are under all the foliage will be something man made.
Comment icon #6 Posted by pallidin on 8 February, 2017, 20:21
Huh, that whole region might be rich with potential archeological sites, I suppose.
Comment icon #7 Posted by aquatus1 on 8 February, 2017, 20:25
Because 90% of what people do tends to fall into one of those two categories.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Tatetopa on 9 February, 2017, 3:40
Check out 1491 by Charles Mann, earlier work on this topic was mentioned. If the observations are true, the forest was farmed in a style of agriculture not familiar to the West. it seems fruit and nut trees are clustered around these mound and causeway sites. Some of the mounds appear to have a large core inclusion of pottery shards. Pallidin, I would say that if a forest still bears the marks of purposeful planting, it is not virgin. 500 years is not long in the lives of trees. I would also recommend
Comment icon #9 Posted by Tatetopa on 9 February, 2017, 3:41
"The Hidden Lives of Trees" by peter Wohllenben.  Sorry about the cut-off.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Myles on 9 February, 2017, 5:24
What classifies something as "purposeful planting"?
Comment icon #11 Posted by Tatetopa on 9 February, 2017, 6:05
Planting fruit and nut trees or medicinal plants around your village site for example. (Not in geometric rows for harvest though)  That is the claim made in 1491 in any case.  Forests and grasslands were managed in North America as well with the intent of clear floors, game support, nut trees such as hickory, pecan, beech and fruits like persimmon.  I think if you have time and plenty of food, its not hard to throw down some hickory nuts in a clearing you found or made, keep the underbrush down, the deer away for a few seasons  and let your children harvest the nuts and hunt more game.  Probab... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by Parsec on 9 February, 2017, 20:29
Maybe you meant me instead of Pallidin.  Anyway, not so straightforward topic I'd say.  I was thinking that the kind of trees living in tha Amazon could be younger than 500 years,  but it looks like you could be right And here, a relared article from 2014   But yet again, if you leave a group of domesticated animals on an island alone for 500 years, can you still consider their descendants domesticated? 
Comment icon #13 Posted by clare256 on 14 February, 2017, 21:04   How much early inhabitants changed these parts of the Amazon is still a “very hot debate” among experts, but Watling says her research “supports the idea that indigenous peoples have been conscious actors throughout the history of Amazonia, and that they actively transformed their environment to make it more livable.” This under-appreciated cultivation of the land by indigenous peoples can lead to serious problems when experts try to create conservation policy based on a misunderstand... [More]

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