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Ancient Amazon civilisation laid bare by felled forest

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posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 10:49 AM
December 10, 2009
Signs of what could be a previously unknown ancient civilisation are emerging from beneath the felled trees of the Amazon. Some 260 giant avenues, ditches and enclosures have been spotted from the air in a region straddling Brazil's border with Bolivia.

The traditional view is that before the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th century there were no complex societies in the Amazon basin – in contrast to the Andes further west where the Incas built their cities. Now deforestation, increased air travel and satellite imagery are telling a different story.

Garden Villages

Their discovery, in an area of northern Bolivia and western Brazil, follows other recent reports of vast sprawls of interconnected villages known as "garden cities" in north central Brazil, dating from around AD 1400. But the structures unearthed at the garden city sites are not as consistently similar or geometric as the geoglyphs, Schaan says.

If this is the case, how many millions of years did it take to recover the Amazon Rainforest only to destory it again.

posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 11:10 AM
this is interesting and very cool, thanks for sharing the story.

i seem to remember learning about various amazonian cultures in my various anthropology classes during my undergraduate studies. while these were all hunter-gather societies there were aspects of their interaction with the forests in which they lived that pointed to a higher level of social development.

i will have to see if i can dig up my sources, but i distinctly remember having to read some studies that evaluated how the forests grew, or more specifically what grew in the forests and where being directly related to these 'hunter-gatherer societies. not that they were consuming goods in one spot thus leaving behind seeds that took root, but more along the lines of intentional establishment of food sources. they did so to such a degree and over such an extended period of time that it was suggested that the present day understanding of the composition of some of these forests was erroneous and based more on the human-gardener built forest.

another article i remember having to read was focused on sub-amazonian lands to the north, lands that would flood an drain into the amazon basin in which were discovered massive human made systems of micro-dams used to both retain and channel water.

regardless, a fascinating topic, thanks for sharing it...

posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 11:54 AM
Archaeology, Ecological History, and Conservation byFrances M. Hayashida (pg45)

The human imprint on seemingly natural areas was convincingly argued by Denevan (1992) in his critique of the “pristine myth” of the pre-Columbian Americas. Additional work by geographers, archaeologists, historians, and others continues to illustrate the ways that indigenous people of the Americas and elsewhere shaped the landscapes they inhabited (Bal´ee 1998a; Denevan 2001; Doolittle 2000; G´omez-Pompa et al. 2003;
Head 1989, 2000; Kay & Simmons 2002; Kirch & Hunt 1997; Lentz 2000; Minnis & Elisens 2000; Peacock 1998; Willis et al. 2004), a fact often missed by colonial observers
who wrote at a time of dramatic population decline and severe social disruption.

Evidence of past human impacts and of their long-term effects comes from a wide
range of sources, including environmental archaeology, paleoecology, history, geography, geology, and cultural anthropology. Categories of data include botanical, faunal, and geological observations from archaeological sites and natural or off-site contexts (e.g., wetland cores, packrat middens); the distribution of sites and landscape features (roads, paths, fields) that provide information on population distribution, densities, and land use; current vegetation patterning; experiments that replicate natural and cultural processes and their effects; and written and oral historical references to past environments and land-use practices.

The Pristine Myth: The Landscape of the Americas in 1492
Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 82(3], 1992, pp. 369-385
by William M. Denevan (pg369)

The myth persists that in 1492 the Americas were a sparsely populated wilderness, "a world of barely perceptible human disturbance." There is substantial evidence, however, that the Native American landscape of the early sixteenth century was a humanized landscape almost everywhere. Populations were large. Forest composition had been modified, grasslands had been created, wildlife disrupted, and erosion was severe in places. Earthworks, roads, fields, and settlements were ubiquitous. With Indian depopulation in the wake of Old World disease, the
environment recovered in many areas. A good argument can be made that the human presence was less visible in 1750 than it was in 1492.

The evidence is convincing. By 1492 Indian activity throughout the Americas had modified forest extent and composition, created and expanded grasslands, and rearranged microrelief via countless artificial earthworks. Agricultural fields were common, as were houses and towns and roads and trails. All of these had local impacts on soil, microclimate, hydrology, and wildlife. This is a large topic, for which this essay offers but an introduction to the issues, misconceptions, and residual problems. The evidence, pieced together from vague ethnohistorical accounts, field surveys, and archaeology, supports the hypothesis that the Indian landscape of 1492 had largely vanished by the mid-eighteenth century, not through a European superimposition, but because of the demise of the native population. The landscape
of 1750 was more "pristine" (less humanized) than that of 1492.

While Denevan is talking primarily about the north American landscape the analysis applies to central and south American landscape as well to varying degrees and in varying circumstances. The rule that applies through out is the 'misconception' in the early European explorers and settlers in reading the language of this new landscape and how this misconceived interpretation formed our current conceptual model and how then this model is fundamentally flawed...

[edit on 12-12-2009 by Animal]

posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 12:04 PM
Handbook of South American Archaeology
edited by Helaine Silverman and William Isbell. Springer, New York, 2008
Chapter 11: Amazonia: The Historical Ecology of a Domesticated Landscape

Traditional historical, geographical, anthropological, and archaeological perspectives on native Amazonia share these negative views. In the classic literature, past and present Amazonian cultures are considered to have been determined largely by the environment to which they adapted. What appears to be a lush, bountiful setting for human development is actually a counterfeit paradise according to some scholars (e.g., Meggers 1971). Environmental limitations, such as poor soils and a lack of protein, combined with a limited technology, few domestic animals, and abundant unoccupied land restricted social development. The simple societies of Amazonia did not evolve into what we recognize as civilization. In this traditional view, the environment as an immutable given or a fixed entity to which human societies adapt (or do not, and thus, fail, and disappear). The basic assumption is that poor environments produce simple societies (band societies of hunters, gatherers, and fishers or tribal societies of subsistence farmers) and the corollary, that rich environments produce complex societies (chiefly and state societies of urban and rural folk).
(pg 157-158)

Historical ecology provides a radical, alternative perspective for understanding
human-environment interaction over the long term and the complex human histories of environments. Historical ecology focuses on landscape as the medium created by human agents through their interaction with the environment. Although landscapes can be the result of unintentional activities, historical ecologists focus on the intentional actions of people and the logic of indigenous knowledge, particularly the understanding of resource creation and management. Historical ecologists, borrowing from the new ecology, argue that disturbance caused by human activities is a key factor in shaping biodiversity and environmental health.

Whereas most traditional archaeologists study sites, archaeologists doing historical ecology focus on the largely ignored space between sites or landscape (Ashmore and Knapp 1998). In the rural Andes and Amazon where I work, people do most of their daytime activities such as farming, building walls, visiting neighbors, sharing labor, and collecting wild resources in the landscape rather than within the confines of sites which are primarily used for eating and sleeping. Because the totality of people’s lives in the past is important, archaeologists must include landscapes in their studies.

Because they are physical and created by repetitive activities through time, landscapes are ideal artifacts for historical ecologists. Archaeologists often apply the metaphor of “reading” landscapes in the sense that cultural patterns created through human activity have meaning and intent that can be deciphered through contextual analysis. Permanent improvements to the land are considered landscape capital, investments that are handed down generation after generation (Brookfield 2002). Later generations benefit from the labor and knowledge of their ancestors embedded in landscape. In a recursive relationship, their lives are often structured by roads, trails, paths, field boundaries, irrigation canals, and clearings for houses imposed on the landscape by past inhabitants. Multiple, often contrasting, landscape patterns, which represent different systems of land use and management, are often embedded in landscapes as palimpsests or layered, sequential traces.

So while what is being argued is the #1 the native landscapes of amazonia were mis-read; #2 the existence of more advanced societies than the 'traditional view' would lend credence to; #3 there exists a 'historical ecology' that supports the notion of advanced societies within the amazon basin and greater amazonia.

The recent discovery of these built patterns within the leveled forest only offers support through more 'traditional' methods of investigation and evidence.

[edit on 12-12-2009 by Animal]

posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 12:27 PM
reply to post by Animal

Thank you for your research Animal, am still going through it, very interesting stuff..

posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 01:27 PM

Originally posted by Aquarius1
reply to post by Animal

Thank you for your research Animal, am still going through it, very interesting stuff..

My pleasure! It is a pretty cool topic and has many implications our our world today, be they our views of history and ancient peoples or rolls the re-development of TEK (tradition ecologic knowledge) can play in helping to mitigate and ameliorate today's environmental issues.

posted on Dec, 12 2009 @ 01:47 PM
You bet this has many implications today, the amazon and rainforest are the life breath of our planet and without them we would be in big trouble...did you check out this related thread I put up recently?

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