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Fawcett, who reportedly “regarded the risk of death as the most piquant sauce of life,” had studied at the Royal Geographical Society in London. He had learned there how to lead an expedition, make pillows from mud, provide merriment in grim times for fellow explorers; how gunpowder could be used as an emetic if poison had been swallowed. He had been taught all about flesh-eating piranhas and electric eels that shot 650 volts into their victims. He was more than ready, at the end of his course, to set off into the wilderness as a leader of other men.
Before long, the Geographical Society had sent him to Bolivia to map the borders between Bolivia, Brazil and Peru. A year ahead of schedule, he had completed his assignment and was back in England looking for a new adventure.
On a 1910 expedition, again to Bolivia, he managed to befriend some Amazon Indians. They were musical and artistic. He came upon shards of skillfully designed ancient ceramics. And he began wondering if there might not once really have been a rich city in the depths of the jungle.
Superdirt Made Lost Amazon Cities Possible?
John Roach for National Geographic News November 19, 2008
Centuries-old European explorers' tales of lost cities in the Amazon have long been dismissed by scholars, in part because the region is too infertile to feed a sprawling civilization.
But new discoveries support the idea of an ancient Amazonian urban network—and ingeniously engineered soil may have made it all possible.
Once upon a time, way back in the sixteenth century, the Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Orellana was the first European explorer to travel up the Amazon River and into the Rio Negro, a huge tributary, upriver from present-day Manaus. The exploration reached perhaps some 1500 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. For Orellana and his unfortunate companions it was a terrible trip plagued with every kind of adversity which, in the end, left him as the sole survivor to return to the Court of the King of Spain to tell the story.
But what a story it was. We might even speculate that Orellana survived the ordeal in order to complete his mission of telling of having found Eldorado — fantastic golden cities in the heart of the forest of the New World. Orellana reported something even more unbelievable than gold — there was an advanced indigenous civilization with many high density human settlements. Huge Indian populations were living along the waterways of Amazônia and, according to Orellana, at one place there was a city of continuous side-by-side houses stretching for twenty miles. His tale was both fantasic and fabulous. I doubt that the Spanish Court could really embrace the thought of a civilization more advanced than their own but they sure could imagine the gold.
He rolls out a 1958 U.S. Air Force photo of a Bolivian savannah. Even with the vast acreage blown up to movie-poster size, the details are as impenetrable as braille to the sighted. “See that,” he says, pointing to a line running across the landscape. “Anything that’s straight—it’s not natural.” With a finger, he traces a symmetrical block of toothpick shapes. “These are raised fields. See, you can pick out the linear patterns.” With Erickson’s narration, more and more geometric designs pop off the glossy print—settlement mounds, fish weirs, irrigation canals, roads. The photo begins to look like a prehistoric engineering blueprint. Unlike most archaeologists, Erickson doesn’t begin his research in excavated holes; he starts in the sky, reading the landscape for markers of vanished civilizations.
For the past decade, Erickson has used aerial images—borrowed from the military, scientists, and even oil companies—to guide his fieldwork. What he’s discovered about the prehistoric Amazon challenges many textbook teachings. Before Columbus, he argues, the area was heavily populated and agriculturally advanced. His work has led to a surprising supposition: Humans may have engineered nearly every aspect of the Amazon landscape.
Pre-Columbian Amazon supported millions of people. The Virgin Forest? Amazon Myths and New Revelations* The Amazon has a long history of human settlement. Contrary to popular belief, sizeable and sedentary societies of great complexity existed in the rainforests of this region. These societies produced pottery, cleared sections of rainforest for agriculture and managed forests to optimize the distribution of useful species. The notion of a virgin Amazon is largely the result of the population crash following the arrival of the Europeans in the sixteenth century. Studies suggest that at least 10-12% of the Amazon's terra firme forests are "anthropogenic in nature" resulting from the careful management of biodiversity by indigenous people. However, unlike most current cultivation techniques, these Amazonians were attuned to the ecological realities of their environment from five millennia of experimentation and accumulation of knowledge, with a strong understanding of how to manage the rainforest to meet their requirements within a sustainable capacity. They saw the importance of maintaining biodiversity through a careful balance of natural forest, open fields and sections of forest managed so as to be dominated by species of special interest and greatest use to humans. The idea that the Amazon is not an untouched wilderness but the product of extensive management by large human populations sharply contrasts with long-held views that the region was sparsely populated by tribal groups who peacefully coexisted with the apparently hostile environment that surrounded them. The leading defender for this traditional view is Betty J. Meggars, director of the Latin American Program at the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History in Washington and author of "Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise."
These Old World diseases came in many different forms, the most lethal of which was smallpox followed closely by influenza, measles, diphtheria, typhus, cholera, bubonic plague, scarlet fever, and tuberculosis .8 Most of these diseases have been recognized by other scholars studying the topic except for one : bubonic plague. Dobyns is the only one to claim that this `terror' of the Old World also struck the western hemisphere . In fact, Dobyns claimed that bubonic plague hit the New World four times between 1545 and 1707.9 The 1612-1619 and 1707 plagues ostensibly hit the east coast, devastating both the Louisiana and New England tribes . No other scholar has corroborated Dobyns' plague theory . This is not to say, however, that epidemics did not affect these tribes during the years mentioned by Dobyns . In fact, there is significant evidence available suggesting that a massive epidemic hit the New England area around 1618-1619. But there is no documentation stating what the contagion was .
the island's population of about eight million people at the time of Columbus's arrival in 1492 already had declined by a third to a half before the year 1496 was out. And after 1496 the death rate, if anything, accelerated.
In plotting on a graph the decline of Hispaniola's native population there appears a curious bulge, around the year 1510, when the diminishing numbers seemed to stabilize and even grow a bit. Then the inexorable downward spiral toward extinction continues. What that little blip on the demographic record indicates is not, however, a moment of respite for the island's people, nor a contradiction to the overall pattern of Hispaniola's population free-fall following Columbus's arrival. Rather, it is a shadowy and passing footnote to the holocaust the Spanish at the same time were bringing to the rest of the Caribbean, for that fleeting instant of population stabilization was caused by the importation of tens of thousands of slaves from surrounding islands in a fruitless attempt by the Spanish to replace the dying natives of Hispaniola.
But death seized these imported slaves as quickly as it had Hispaniola's natives. And thus, the islands of the Bahamas were rapidly stripped of perhaps half a million people, in large part for use as short-lived replacements by the Spanish for Hispaniola's nearly eradicated indigenous inhabitants. Then Cuba, with its enormous population, suffered the same fate.... overall in central Mexico the population fell by almost 95 percent within seventy-five years following the Europeans' first appearance - from more than 25,000,000 people in 1519 to barely 1,300,000 in 1595.
For the Andean society as a whole ... within a century following their first encounter with the Spanish, 94-96 percent of their once-enormous population had been exterminated; along their 2000 miles of coastline, where once 6,500,000 people had lived, everyone was dead....The earliest European mariners and explorers in California ... repeatedly referred to the great numbers of Indians living there. In places where Vizcaino's ships could approach the coast or his men could go ashore, the Captain recorded, again and again, that the land was thickly filled with people. And where he couldn't approach or go ashore "because the coast was wild," the Indians signaled greetings by building fires-fires that "made so many columns of smoke on the mainland that at night it looked like a procession and in the daytime the sky was overcast." In sum, as Father Ascension put it, "this realm of California is very large and embraces much territory, nearly all inhabited by numberless people."
Originally posted by SugarCube
Great.. lets cut down some more trees - this is doing a great service to science and enables anthropologists and other assorted scientists to attract grants to investigate the phenomena and feed their families while the world goes down the tubes. Hey, we all have bills to pay!
I'd rather they remain hidden, given that the one thing we have not managed to learn from 'ancient and lost civilisations' is how to prevent ourselves from imploding.
There really isn't a 'bonus' side to cutting down the rainforests...