Is Everything We Were Told About the Amazon a Lie?
Turns out the Amazonian rain forest may have looked very different than we imagine just a few hundred years ago. According to New Scientist, evidence points at a “domesticated” Amazon, full of cities and people that were wiped out by European conquistadores rather than the unpopulated wilderness it was believed to be. The previous inhabitants, however, likely valued their natural surroundings more than the governments and corporations that are rapidly destroying the rain forest nowadays.
From New Scientist:
What is today one of the largest tracts of rainforest in the world was, until little more than 500 years ago, a landscape dominated by human activity, according to a review of the evidence by Charles Clement of Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research in Manaus, and his colleagues…The evidence for this radical rethink has been stacking up for some time. Archaeologists have uncovered dense urban centres that would have been home to up to 10,000 inhabitants along riverbanks, with fields and cultivated orchards of Brazil nuts, palm and fruit trees stretching for tens of kilometres. Remote sensing has revealed extensive earthworks, including cities, causeways, canals, graveyards and huge areas of ridged fields that kept crops like manioc, maize and squash clear of floods and frosts.
Meanwhile, agriculturalists have discovered that many forest soils have been mulched and composted with waste. These fertile “dark earths”, or terra preta, may cover 150,000 square kilometres, much of it now reclaimed by rainforests. Before the arrival of Europeans, the region’s population may have reached 50 million.
The remains date back 3000 years or more, say the authors, who include geographer William Denevan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and anthropologist Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida at Gainesville…
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi ZapataWait, before you go…
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