Archeologists Discover 81 Lost Ancient Settlements Hidden in the Amazon Rainforest

Wednesday, 28 March 2018 - 1:51PM
Wednesday, 28 March 2018 - 1:51PM
Archeologists Discover 81 Lost Ancient Settlements Hidden in the Amazon Rainforest
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Considering how extensively the world has been mapped out by this point, one might be forgiven for thinking that all the really cool archeological finds have already been uncovered.

Not so—a new paper published in Nature Communications details 81 ancient settlements spread out over 400,000 km2 of southern Amazonia that have been rediscovered after hundreds of years.

According to the paper, these sites would have been in use between the years of 1250–1500 AD, with the size and scope of these settlements suggesting that a huge network of people lived and traded in the area.

This has come as something of a surprise—according to Dolores Piperno, who was not involved with the study:

Opening quote
"Prominent scholars thought that little of cultural significance had ever happened in a tropical forest. It was supposed to be too highly vegetated, too moist. And the corollary to those views was that people never cut down the forests; they were supposed to have been sort of 'noble savages'. But those views have been overturned. A lot of importance happened in tropical forests, including agricultural origins"
Closing quote

Now, instead of assuming that the area is bereft of human impressions, archeologists suspect that there could be hundreds more outposts and communities dotted across the area, just waiting to be discovered.

Twenty-four of the identified sites have been subjected to significant surveys at present. Archeologists were able to identify common everyday tools, pottery, enriched soil for crop growth, and plenty of trash, that proved that these little pockets of civilization were inhabited for quite a long time. The sites are easily identifiable thanks to ditches that have been dug around their outer limits, likely in an effort to gain some form of protection, which makes sense considering how many different tribes were active in the area.

This wasn't a single community spread out over a vast area—according to Jonas Gregorio de Souza, the lead author on the study, this was a "mosaic of cultures," who left behind evidence that each of these small settlements had their own local customs and practices, despite a healthy trade network linking them all together.

These small groups would have totaled somewhere between 500,000 and a million people if current estimates and population density models are accurate.

This discovery is not unlike a similar find in Guatemala last year, where an area that was thought to be completely untouched yielded an incredible discovery in the form of a huge, sprawling city that's been buried for centuries within the jungle.

It seems that we've been wrong to assume that the ancient people of South America were less developed than their cousins across the pond; once upon a time, the continent was covered in industry and civilization to rival what was happening in Europe during the same time period.
Science News