New study discovers 81 lost human settlements in the Amazon rainforest

Archaeologists have over the past few decades uncovered a growing body of evidence suggesting the pre-Columbian Amazon was not the sparsely populated, pristine rainforest it was widely believed to have been. Now, new research adds to this evidence. By looking at satellite images of a previously unexplored part of the Amazon in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, a team of archaeologists have identified 81 human settlements that pre-date the arrival of the Europeans. At all these sites, the team could see the remains of fortified villages and geoglyphs, human-made earthworks in square, circular or hexagonal form, likely used for ceremonies. The archaeologists also checked 24 of these sites on the ground, and confirmed that those were indeed real archaeological sites, “representative of the region as a whole.” In fact, on investigating one site in detail, the team discovered fragments of ceramics, polished stone axes and soil rich in charcoal — indications of long-term human habitation. They dated these to between A.D. 1410 and 1460, the researchers report in the study published in Nature Communications. The team also found that the settlements weren’t near major rivers, but closer to smaller streams and creeks. This challenges a commonly held belief that pre-Columbian people tended to live close to fertile floodplains of large rivers, leaving the rest of the forest relatively untouched. “The idea was that in the areas that are located further away from the main rivers, populations maybe were actually smaller and they had a negligible impact on the environment,” lead author, Jonas…

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Original Post by Mongabay

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