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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Amazon Civilization Before Columbus

http://frontiers-of-anthropology.blogspot.gr/search/label/Amazonian%20Adaptation

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."
RELATED
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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
Science
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 amazon
Heckenberger'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 questions
The 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 are 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

    http://blog.world-mysteries.com/mystic-places/lost-cities/

    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 theAmazon 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.
     

    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.
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