Deluge of Atlantis

Deluge of Atlantis
Deluge of Atlantis

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Amazon Civilization Before Columbus

"Lost" Amazon Complex Found; Shapes Seen by Satellite

[It would seem that the long-disbelieved rumours of "Lost Cities of the Amazon"such as the ones promoted by Sir Percival Fawcett were actually based on the truth-DD]

The crop circles of Santa Teresinha, Brazil, are seen in an undated photograph.
The crop circles of Santa Teresinha, Brazil, are seen in an undated photograph.
Photograph courtesy Édison Caetano

John Roach
for National Geographic News
January 4, 2010
Hundreds of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes once hidden by forest hint at a previously unknown ancient society that flourished in the Amazon, a new study says.

Satellite images of the upper Amazon Basin taken since 1999 have revealed more than 200 geometric earthworks spanning a distance greater than 155 miles (250 kilometers).

(Related: "Huge Pre-Stonehenge Complex Found via 'Crop Circles.'")

Now researchers estimate that nearly ten times as many such structures—of unknown purpose—may exist undetected under the Amazon's forest cover.

At least one of the sites has been dated to around A.D. 1283, although others may date as far back as A.D. 200 to 300, said study co-author Denise Schaan, an anthropologist at the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil.

The discovery adds to evidence that the hinterlands of the Amazon once teemed with complex societies, which were largely wiped out by diseases brought to South America by European colonists in the 15th and 16th centuries, Schaan said.

Since these vanished societies had gone unrecorded, previous research had suggested that soils in the upper Amazon were too poor to support the extensive agriculture needed for such large, permanent settlements.

"We found that this picture is wrong," Schaan said. "And there is a lot more to discover in these places."

Wide-reaching Culture

The newfound shapes are created by a series of trenches about 36 feet (11 meters) wide and several feet deep, with adjacent banks up to 3 feet (1 meter) tall. Straight roads connect many of the earthworks.

Preliminary excavations at one of the sites in 2008 revealed that some of the earthworks were surrounded by low mounds containing domestic ceramics, charcoal, grinding-stone fragments, and other evidence of habitation.

But who built the structures and what functions they served remains a mystery. Ideas range from defensive buildings to ceremonial centers and homes, the study authors say.

It's also possible the structures served different purposes over time, noted William Woods, a geographer and anthropologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence who was not involved in the research.

"For example," he said, "in Lawrence there's a Masonic temple—it is now a bar. There was a bank—it is now a restaurant called Tellers. These things happen."

What most surprised the research team is that the earthworks appear in both the region's floodplains and the uplands.

In general, the Amazon's fertile floodplains have been popular sites for ancient civilizations, while the sparser uplands have been thought to be largely devoid of people, the researchers say.

What's more, the earthworks in both regions are of a similar style, suggesting they were built by the same society.

"In Amazonian archaeology you always have this idea that you find different peoples in different ecosystems," study co-author Schaan said.

"And so it was kind of odd to have a culture that would take advantage of different ecosystems and expand over such a large region."

"Astounding" Population

The uplands sites appear to have been home to as many as 60,000 people, Schaan and her colleagues suggest in their paper, published this month in the journal Antiquity.

That figure is based on estimates of the social organization and labor that would have been required to build the structures hinted at by the remaining earthworks.

According to the University of Kansas' Woods, the population estimate is reasonable, albeit rough, since so little is known about these complexes.

Answers may emerge as researchers continue to excavate the newfound shapes in the coming years.

But Woods is impressed by the possibility that so many people might have once lived in a region long thought uninhabited.

"Traditionally, if you would have asked an anthropologist or archaeologist how many people lived [in these Amazon uplands], they'd say almost zero," he said.

"And so this is astounding that there is 60,000 people making a go of it where there aren't supposed to be any."

Lost cities of the Amazon revealed

Archaeologists discover a grid of villages and managed parks

Image: Village
An artist's conception shows a Xinguano village of the Brazilian Amazon as it might have appeared before 1492. Archaeologists have found traces of wide, curbed roads and managed parkland.
By Kathleen Wren
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2003 - Newly discovered traces of ancient roads, bridges, and plazas in Brazil’s tropical forest may help dispel the once-popular impression of an “untouched” Amazon before the Europeans’ arrival. In southern Brazil, archaeologists have found the remains of a network of urban communities that apparently hosted a population many thousands strong. Reporting their findings in the journal Science, published by AAAS, the science society, the researchers say the people who dwelled there dramatically changed their local landscape.
In the upper Xingu region of the southern Amazon, in central Brazil, Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida and his colleagues have discovered centuries-old remains of roads that appear to link a network of large villages in a carefully organized, gridlike pattern. The residents, ancestors of the modern-day Xinguanos, dug enormous ditches around the villages, built bridges and moats in wetland areas, and cultivated large tracts of land.
It seems that virtually no part of this landscape was truly wild, or “pristine.” Even some of the forested areas may have been more akin to a large park than to untouched forest, according to Heckenberger.
Too hostile for habitation?
Though multitudes of plants and animals thrive in the Amazon, the environment was long thought to be too hostile for large-scale human settlement. In particular, archaeologists believed that the soil quality was too poor to support the intensive agriculture that would be necessary to support a population of significant size.
The general impression of native Amazonians as “stone age primitives frozen at the dawn of time” has changed little over the past few centuries, Heckenberger said.
“There was this cherished image that the Amazon was pure nature. The problem is, we have very few good, empirical cases that tell us what Amazonia was like in 1492, one way or the other,” he said.
In recent years, archaeologists have been revising their view of the Amazon, sometimes provoking bitter debates over how extensively the land could have been settled by humans. A key reason for the controversy has been the lack of good physical evidence, according to Heckenberger.
The first written record that refers to the Kuikuro, a subgroup of the Xinguanos with whom Heckenberger has worked for a decade, is from 1884. But, according to the Kuikuro’s oral history, the first Europeans they encountered were slavers, around 1750. Heckenberger and his colleagues tentatively estimate that the population of the region numbered in the tens of thousands, but crashed due to enslavement and disease epidemics. By the 1950s, there were as few as 500 Xinguanos.
With indigenous Amazonians’ numbers decimated, and little concrete evidence of their earlier civilizations, researchers visiting the Amazon generally concluded that its people had always been small, “primitive” tribes who left little imprint on their environment.

Image: Settlements from satellite
A satellite image shows complex regional settlement patterns and large-scale transformations of local landscapes over the past millennium.

An urban amazonHeckenberger’s team has found 19 settlements to date, at least four of which were major residential centers. The settlements were built around large, circular plazas, with roads leading out from them at specific angles, repeated from one plaza to the next.
Heckenberger, who collaborated with two Kuikuro chiefs on the Science study, believes the engineered features of the landscape all involved elements of the Kuikuro’s understanding of the entire cosmos. Road directions and the orientations of other structures are keyed to the directions of the sun and stars, for example. Today, the Kuikuro continue this sort of “ethnocartography,” as Heckenberger calls it.
Roads in the ancient settlements were up to 165 feet (50 meters) wide, the width of a modern-day four-lane highway, and flanked by large curbs. The researchers report that the roads linked settlements, every two to three miles (three to five kilometers), along an extensive grid. This kind of planning would have required the relatively sophisticated ability to reproduce angles over large distances, according to Heckenberger.
Where the villages converged on wetlands, the researchers discovered the remains of ancient bridges, moats and canals. The Kuikuro still use many such structures today.
The entire area in between settlements was carefully engineered and managed, according to the researchers. It was likely either cultivated, or maintained as a sort of parkland — a managed area, rather than wild or pristine forest. Satellite images reveal that the vegetation now growing in these areas looks quite different from older forest.
Conservation questionsThe Upper Xingu is the largest contiguous tract of Amazonian forest still under indigenous management. Its history brings up the question of how to go about conserving the remaining Amazon. Should the goal be to preserve a “pristine” wilderness untouched by human activity? Or a working landscape that supports indigenous peoples?
Perhaps both options need not be mutually exclusive. Heckenberger is quick to point out that the Amazon is not a uniform landscape.
“Because it’s so poorly known, Western knowledge has tended to treat the area as one homogeneous thing: one big jungle, one big rainforest, one natural lab for primitive people,” Heckenberger said. “As we dig into the region, we realize that 500 years ago it was very different, and that even today there is a large amount of variation that we didn’t appreciate before.
“These people were involved in the same kinds of cultural human innovation as elsewhere in the world. We’re not talking about the Incan or Roman Empire here, but in terms of the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and elsewhere, Amazonians were no less capable of human cultural innovation than anyone else,” Heckenberger said.
© 2009 American Association for the Advancement of Science

    Lost cities in the jungle

    The trekkers stood breathless. In the afternoon sun, they had come upon it suddenly.
    Down in the ravine, it was like a place enchanted; so many towers and buildings grew out of the green jungle, all made of stone, gleaming white.
    They were seized with wonder. After a long pause, one of them spoke. “It must be magic! Is this a fairytale? Am I dreaming?”
    They were beholding things never heard or even dreamed about before.
    In 1926 or 1927 an expedition led by a doctor from Hamburg travelled in canoes up a tributary of the Rio Negro, into the unknown border country of northwestern Brazil and southern Venezuela. They touched the territories of several tribes of wild Indians. Leaving behind the “green hell” of the jungle and the booming drums of natives they never saw, they began to ascend.
    It was weeks later, when they reached a gorge from which they followed an ancient road tunnel through the cliff walls. On the other side, the paved way continued high above a tremendous valley, until they looked down into another large ravine.
    What they saw took their breath away: a dead city of towering palaces, splendid ruins, temples, carved pillars and pyramids, mostly swallowed in jungle. There were magnificent gardens with broken fountains, which once must have spouted cool water.
    Further along the paved way, they ambushed and caught a dwarfish man, about four feet tall. He was almost naked except for a leather belt with buckles of pure gold. Later they met more of these men – all white-skinned. Their women, likewise nude, had long hair and beautiful classic features. They wore gold bracelets and gold necklets.
    The party explored a massive pyramid-temple, whose interior fairly blazed with gold. Pillars, roof and walls were sheathed in it. Strange letters were engraved on the gold plates. Numerous utensils and chains of solid gold were marvellously chased and engraved, as by the finest goldsmiths.
    On deep, blue-veined marble altars were traces of ancient blood, or rust(?); perhaps of ancient sacrifices of some horrible cult.
    Most parts of the dead city were inaccessible. The intruders entered only the suburbs.
    The white tribe had become degenerate, living on the outskirts either in tunnels, rooms in the rock, or little stone houses. Each carried a long, curved knife of pure gold. It was not valued here.
    The heavy burden of gold carried out by the expedition led to the death at the hands of hostile Indians, of three-quarters of the party.

    Lost Cities

    Huge stone cities, very ancient, with paved streets and tall pyramids choked with forest, have been sighted in the Amazon jungle by several explorers in recent centuries.
    Tantalised by the descriptions, many other explorers, including an entire military expedition, have vanished in the jungle without trace.
    These mysterious cities were built when the climate in the Amazon basin was more temperate and the rivers drained a fertile area before the jungle took over.
    Unfortunately, if much of Amazonia was covered by the Atlantic around 1200 B.C., as evidence suggests, we cannot expect to find significant ancient sites conveniently located along the river banks. Such sites will likely be in the “green hell” far from the present river courses.
    [1200 BC would have been an immense flooding of the Amazonian area by tsunami out of the Atlantic and the dating of the event quite significant: alternate estimates of the date for this event include also about 3000 BC-DD]

    Before the jungle grew

    We know something of mankind’s early achievements in the Asia-Africa-Europe region. Little is heard about the Americas. This is a subject that could fill volumes.
    Literally thousands of inscribed stones have been found in the unknown jungles, some of them giving directions to ancient mines now under virgin forest too thick to penetrate.
    In the early days, when South America was still free of jungle, the human race had already settled and built a civilisation.
    There were wonderful and elaborate cities. The citizens wall-papered their houses with thin sheets of beaten gold. (See my book Dead Men’s Secrets, pp.130,131,178) Nothing was so cheap, so common, so easy to get as gold and silver.
    Recently a scientific pundit wrote, from his considerable throne in an ivory tower, that the Amazon jungle has been there for millions of years and that only primitive tribes had lived there. He was an “expert”, of course, properly trained and informed. And, he added, writing was unknown. Other “experts” gave much the same glib response.
    Experts, I fear me, constitute near tragedy.
    Little of what is known has found its way into textbooks. The theory of evolution is at risk if it gets out.
    There is now overwhelming evidence that South America was well known in antiquity. It was resplendent with great cities. Mighty empires spanned the continent. And global communication in the distant past equalled that of modern times. (Ibid., pp.77-98)
    It is abundantly clear that history needs to be rewritten.

    Destruction of the cities

    It was fire from heaven and the earth below that ruined many of the cities. When the earth shook and day turned to night, there came from yawning crevices in the paved roads, beside their splendid palaces and temples, volumes of deadly gases.
    Blinded, asphyxiated, maddened by the appalling suddenness of the catastrophe, men and beautiful women, educated and sophisticated, fled out of the shining cities.
    Everything was left behind. Bars of gold and silver were thrown to the ground, in panic haste, by men thinking only of how to save their lives.
    They fled along paved roads, now cracked, fissured and overwhelmed by great boulders.
    An empire of sophisticated people. All gone. We don’t even know their name.

    Survivors degenerate

    When the earthquakes rendered these huge stone cities uninhabitable, the climatic conditions were such that great reptiles, facing extinction in most other parts of the earth, moved in.
    Before long, the green forest covered the whole landscape.
    Traditions of this ancient race and their continent-wide empire are today crystallised in the oral history of primitive tribes.
    Many ancient traditions survive of an advanced culture which flourished thousands of years ago to the north and west of the Brazilian highlands.
    Their descendants are now scattered as primitive tribes throughout the jungle.

    Primitive descendants retain legacy

    The Tapuya, a native Indian race in eastern Brazil, are still skilful workers in precious stones and wear diamonds and jade ornaments.
    Spanish missioners found that primitive Aymara Indians of Lake Titicaca could still write with a script identical to that found carved in a dead city (referred to below) in the Bahia region of Brazil.
    Books of wonderfully executed paintings and hieroglyphics were found among naked Panos savages of the deep Peruvian forests near Ucayle, in the Amazon headwaters, in the early nineteenth century. The Indians explained that the books, handed down, contained a history of events in the days of their ancestors.

    Modern discoveries

    An amazing document, filed in the archives of the old royal public library of Rio de Janeiro, describes an ancient abandoned city accidentally discovered in 1753 by a party of 300 – led by a Portuguese bandeirista.
    These early land-pirates reached places in the interior, 400 years ago, that white men, even today, have not penetrated and returned alive to tell the tale.
    The manuscript has been badly mutilated by the copim insect. It recounts a trek in search of the famed silver mines of Moribecu. After almost ten years of wandering, the group came upon a mountain pass, from which they spied in the distance a great city on the plain. Cautiously descending, they found it to be uninhabited.
    They entered under colossal arches, to paved streets flanked by statues and buildings of enormous size. There were mysterious inscriptions, which they copied down.
    A great part of the city lay completely in ruins, dissected by almost “bottomless” crevices. It appeared to have been overthrown by an earthquake.
    Once a metropolis of great wealth and grandeur, it was now home to swallows, bats, rats and foxes, not to mention swarms of hens and geese (descendants of poultry once raised by the citizens?).
    This dead city lies in the unexplored hinterland of the Brazilian state of Bahia.
    On March 23, 1773, the archives of the governor of Sao Paulo record a further accidental discovery of a dead city in the unexplored forest of the Rio Pequery.
    Froy Pedro Cieza de Leon, a Spanish soldier-monk, who died in 1560, was one of the first to discover an ancient city with immense buildings in the Brazilian jungle. The local natives called it Guamanaga. It was located on the great Cordillera in Latitude 12o59′ S., Longitude 73o59′ W.
    In 1913, former British Consul-General in Rio, Lieutenant-Colonel O’Sullivan, penetrated to the dead city of the bandeiristas – and survived.
    In the following decade, the noted explorer-scientist Colonel P.A. Fawcett, while completing a thorough survey for the Royal Geographical Society of London of a disputed jungle region, entered this lost world. He came out claiming to have sighted such a city in the upper reaches of the Amazon, near the Brazilian border with Bolivia. He attempted a return to it, but vanished.
    In 1925, veteran British surveyor, archeologist and explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett journeyed to the Mato Grosso region of Brazil with a small crew to search for a lost civilization – what he referred to as the ‘City of Z.’ Neither he nor any in his party ever returned.

    Reported nearly two-hundred years earlier in a document penned by a Portuguese explorer, the lost City of Z, the suspected hub of an as of yet undiscovered large-scale civilization in what was assumed to always have been the sparsely populated inner Amazon region, was Fawcett’s passion and obsession. His adventures and disappearance became the stuff of legend, inspiring everything from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World, to early Hollywood movies and in part, even the iconic adventures and person of Indiana Jones.
    Subject Related Book: Exploration Fawcett: Journey to the Lost City of Z

    Peculiar pyramids, rounded at the top, are seen still, today, deep in the jungle. Native traditions speak of a light which was used, akin to our electric bulb.

    Thousands of unexplored lost cities

    From Mexico to Chile, literally thousands of ruined towns and cities, buried under dense jungle or desert sands, have never been explored.

    Lost Cities of North America
    Settlers came to North America on the first migration wave after the Flood. Surprisingly (?), what is now the United States once swarmed with populous cities. They were spread out from Florida, through the Mississippi and over into Arizona and New Mexico. There are traces still to be found if one knows where to look.
    The Indians of Florida said a white civilisation was there when they arrived. (Examples of surviving white Indian tribes in North America are the Zuni of New Mexico and the Menominees.)
    And there were the Mound Builders – who lived in cities and were agricultural. They enjoyed an enlightened system of government. No idols, known to be such, have been found. All traces of their architecture (wooden, thus impermanent) have disappeared.
    According to Mexican and North American oral history, some of the North American cities were wiped out through fiery aerial warfare. (See Dead Men’s Secrets, pp.336,337,342)
    Traces of a buried city appear to lie below 4 square miles of Rockwall County, Texas. Great stone walls, in places up to 49 feet high, are constructed in the manner a modern fine mason would build a wall. The walls are totally regular in appearance. In the 1920s Count Byron Kuhn de Porok, an archaeologist of some fame, noted that the walls resembled those of buried cities he had excavated in the Middle East and North Africa.
    The stones, apparently bevelled around their edges, are joined by a mortarlike substance. Four large stones extracted from this underground wall appear to have been inscribed with some form of writing. (Brad Steiger, Mysteries of Time and Space. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1974, pp.52,53)
    L. Taylor Hanson spent considerable time with Red Indian tribes. Dark Thunder, chief of the O’Chippewa people of Michigan, revealed to her:
    “Once we had books, but those were times long distant in the past. Books are of such stuff which can be swept into oblivion. Since then we have placed our stories in the chants of our people.” (L.Taylor Hanson, He Walked The Americas. Amherst, Wisconsin: Amherst Press, 1964, p.70)
    Certain Red Indian tribes chant the stories of long ago when they lived in cities, always near mighty rivers, avenues of ancient commerce. When war came, the people abandoned the cities and took to the forest. (Ibid., 48,69,78,82)
    However, in subsequent climatic changes, the climate gradually became drier.
    I am tempted to ask, if man evolved from beasts, then why is it that there existed among all of the peoples of all continents a long tradition of a Golden Age, instead of that of a savage past?
    It’s time the truth was out. Here is evidence of men conscious of their civilised background, compelled to use all their technical skill in a savage and hostile environment; men able to make contact with other civilised people once, but afterwards isolated and forced to make use of crude implements for survival.
    Speaking of primitive tribes people whose ancestors once lived in shining cities, Colonel Fawcett wrote in his notes:
    “I have good reason to know that these original people still remain in a degenerate state… They use script.”


    - Dead Men’s Secrets – tantalising hints of a lost super race:
    - The Corpse Came Back – for the first time, see world history knit together in a way that makes sense:
    Lost Cities – adventuring into strange places:
    Jonathan Gray 2010


Amazon Civilization Before Columbus A series of articles from various news sources following the publication of "Amazonia 1492: Pristine Forest or Cultural Parkland?" in Science [2003 301: 1710-1714] by Heckenberger et al. Information on Amazon forest dwellers can be found at American Forest Peoples

Tue, Sep. 23, 2003
Study shows complex grid of towns in Amazon of 1400s
By Paul Recer
Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The Amazon River basin was not all a pristine, untouched wilderness before Columbus came to the Americas, as was once believed. Researchers have uncovered clusters of extensive settlements linked by wide roads with other communities and surrounded by agricultural developments.

The researchers, including some descendants of pre-Columbian tribes that lived along the Amazon, have found evidence of densely settled, well-organized communities with roads, moats and bridges in the Upper Xingu part of the vast tropical region.

Michael J. Heckenberger, first author of the study appearing last week in the journal Science, said the ancestors of the Kuikuro people in the Amazon basin had a ``complex and sophisticated'' civilization with a population of many thousands during the period before 1492.

``These people were not the small mobile bands or simple dispersed populations'' that some earlier studies had suggested, he said.

Instead, the people demonstrated sophisticated levels of engineering, planning, cooperation and architecture in carving out of the tropical rain forest a system of interconnected villages and towns making up a widespread culture based on farming.

Heckenberger said the society that lived in the Amazon before Columbus was overlooked by experts because they did not build the massive cities and pyramids and other structures common to the Mayans, Aztecs and other pre-Columbian societies in South America.

Instead, they built towns, villages and smaller hamlets all laced together by precisely designed roads, some more than 50 yards across, that went in straight lines from one point to another.

``They were not organized in cities,'' Heckenberger said. ``There was a different pattern of small settlements, but they were all tightly integrated."

He said the population in one village and town complex was 2,500 to 5,000 people, but that could be just one of many complexes in the Amazon region.

``All the roads were positioned according to the same angles, and they formed a grid throughout the region,'' he said. Only a small part of these roads has been uncovered, and it is uncertain how far the roads extend, but the area studied by his group is a grid 15 miles by 15 miles, he said.

Heckenberger said the people did not build with stone, as did the Mayas, but made tools and other equipment of wood and bone. Such materials quickly deteriorate in the tropical forest, unlike more durable stone structures. Building stones were not readily available along the Amazon, he said.

He said the Amazon people moved huge amounts of dirt to build roads and plazas. At one place, there is evidence that they even built a bridge spanning a major river. The people also altered the natural forest, planting and maintaining orchards and agricultural fields, and the effects of this stewardship can still be seen today, Heckenberger said.

Diseases such as smallpox and measles, brought to the new world by European explorers, are thought to have wiped out most of the population along the Amazon, he said. By the time scientists began studying the indigenous people, the population was sparse and far-flung. As a result, some researchers assumed that that was the way it was prior to Columbus.

'Pristine' Amazon Hosted Large Cities, Study Finds
Thu Sep 18, 2:02 PM ET
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Brazil's northern Amazon region, once thought to have been pristine until modern development began encroaching, actually hosted sophisticated networks of towns and villages hundreds of years ago, researchers said on Thursday.

Archeological evidence and satellite images show the area was densely settled long before Columbus and European settlers arrived, with towns featuring plazas, roads up to 150 feet wide, deep moats and bridges, the researchers found.

The report, published in the journal Science, suggests a society that was advanced and complex, and that found alternative ways to use the Amazon forest without destroying it.

Nineteen evenly spaced villages were linked by straight roads, and the cluster could have supported between 2,500 and 5,000 people, said the researchers, led by Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida.

The villages were all laid out in a similar manner -- and the roads were mathematically parallel. "This really blew us away," Heckenberger said in a telephone interview. "It's fantastic stuff."

Heckenberger, who worked with indigenous chiefs from the Upper Xingu region as well as a team at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, said the settlements dated to between 1200 A.D. and 1600 A.D.

"Every 3 km to 5 km (mile and a half to two miles) there is another village or town," he said. "Some of these villages are 50 hectares in size ... maybe 150 or so acres in total size," he added.


"In the villages sometimes the roads are 50 meters wide. Why 50 meters? There were no wheeled vehicles. They were not having car races up and down these things and certainly you were not moving Incan armies."

Heckenberger believes the wide boulevards and plazas were the early Xinguano society's version of monuments -- akin to the pyramids of the Maya.

"Clearly it is an aesthetic thing," he said. "It speaks of very sophisticated astronomical knowledge and mathematical knowledge and the kind of things that we associate with pyramids. It is a different human alternative to social complexity."

It would have taken a productive economy to fund such works, he added. But the civilization was not as large and urbanized as better known South American civilizations.

"Everyone loves the 'lost civilization in the Amazon story'. What the Upper Xingu and middle Amazon stuff shows us is that Amazon people organized in an alternative way to urbanization. We shouldn't be expecting to find lost cities. But that doesn't mean they were primitive tribes, either."

The agriculture was clearly sophisticated, too, the researchers said, and probably very unlike modern clear-cutting strategies. They clearly, however, altered the forest, Heckenberger said.

"What it does show is there are alternatives to what is commonly presented as an all-or-nothing scenario," he said.

The Amazon was not primordial when European colonists arrived -- bringing with them the diseases such as smallpox and measles that virtually wiped out indigenous populations.

"I firmly believe that the majority of what is now forested landscape would have been converted into some other type of environment -- secondary forest or fields of grass or orchards of fruit trees or manioc gardens," he said.

Xinguano people still live in the region and are certainly descended from whoever built the cities, he said -- but the populations are considerably sparser.

The Independent
Amazon rainforest was home to highly elaborate civilisation
By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor
19 September 2003

The Amazon is known today as a rainforest whose natural resources are under threat from human incursion.

But before Europeans arrived in the 15th century it was home to dense populations served by a complex of public plazas, roads and canals.

Researchers from the University of Florida at Gainesville challenge the traditional view that it was a "pristine" habitat containing only small numbers of scattered villages. Michael Heckenberger, an assistant professor at the university's department of anthropology, says the jungle was being tamed and altered by humans well before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492.

He reports his 10-year study, mapping and excavating a 1,000-square kilometre area around the Upper Xingu, a tributary of the Amazon in Brazil, in the journal Science today.

Clark Erickson, from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, says in an accompanying news article: "These people were doing something we don't seem very successful at: sustaining populations without destroying biodiversity."

Professor Heckenberger sayshuman population declined in the Amazon because of diseases introduced by Westerners such as smallpox and influenza. His studies were assisted by two indigenous chiefs from the region. They turned up man-made features that date back more than 500 years, including overgrown canals and roads up to 50 metres wide. There was evidence of large central plazas, canals and bridges and defensive moats around villages.

The researchers say: "Evidence ... suggests a highly elaborate built environment, rivalling many contemporary societies of the Americas."

Los Angeles Times
Amazon revealed as a hub of society
By Thomas Maugh
September 20, 2003
Deep in the Amazon forest of Brazil, archaeologists have found a network of 1000-year-old towns and villages.

The find refutes two long-held notions: that the pre-Columbian tropical rainforest was a pristine environment that had not been altered by humans and that the rainforest could not support a complex, sophisticated society.

A 39-square kilometre region at the headwaters of the Xingu River contains at least 19 villages that are sited at regular intervals and share the same circular design. The villages are connected by a system of broad, parallel highways, Florida researchers were expected to report in the imminent issue of Science.

The Xinguano people who occupied the area not only built the complex towns but altered the forest to meet their needs, clearing large areas to plant orchards and cassava while preserving other areas as a source of wood, medicine and animals.

Researchers have theorised for 10 to 20 years that such societies were possible in Amazonia, but Jim Petersen, an archaeologist at the University of Vermont, said "this is the first proof".

The new findings are a crucial part of "a growing body of evidence that Amazonia could support reasonably large villages and complex societies", said archaeologist Robert Carneiro, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Today the region is comprised mainly of villages with populations of fewer than 150 people, each of which is independent of other settlements. Before the current work, most of the Xinguano remaining in the region were not even aware of the accomplishments of their ancestors before the population was devastated by diseases brought by the Europeans in the 16th century, said archaeologist Michael Heckenberger, of the University of Florida, who led the research.

Attitudes about the region were shaped nearly 50 years ago by researchers such as archaeologist Betty Meggers, of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. She concluded that the soil in the region is so poor that it could not support the intensive agriculture necessary for the establishment of large communities.

The new research reveals that there were in fact 19 villages. Occupied between 800AD and 1600AD, each supported populations of 2500 to 5000 people. They were about 2.5 to 3.5 kilometres apart, connected by straight roadways that were up to 45 metres wide.

The team also found excavated ditches in and around the ancient settlements, bridges, artificial river obstructions and ponds, causeways, canals and other structures, many of which are still in use today.

"They are organised in a way that suggests a sophisticated knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and other sciences," Mr Heckenberger said.

"It's not earth-shattering compared to what was going on in the rest of the world at the same time, but nobody expected it in the Amazon."


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