The surprising finding of a group of villages in the Amazon that rethinks the history of the world’s largest jungle

The surprising finding of a group of villages in the Amazon that rethinks the history of the world’s largest jungle


Deforestation threatens to destroy the Amazon, but this time it was the key to an archaeological discovery that redefines the history of the largest forest in the world.

Thanks to aerial images of areas where there are practically no trees left, a group of archaeologists from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom discovered 81 villages that, according to their calculations, were inhabited by between 500,000 and one million people. the years 1,200 and 1,450.

The discovery, revealed this week, took place in the south of the Amazon, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.

The interesting thing about the discovery is that these settlements are far from the main rivers , which questions the idea that the largest pre-Columbian populations of this region were only located around the large water sources.

a geoglyph
Image caption Deforestation revealed the remains of the settlements. Photo: University of Exeter.

Until a few years ago it was estimated that before the colonization, about 5.5 million square kilometers of the Amazon lived about 8 million people.

This finding, however, suggests that in just 2,000 square kilometers an average of 750,000 people lived.

“This is just one more piece in the mazonas puzzle ,” archaeologist Jonas Gregorio de Souza, leader of the research, tells BBC Mundo.

“There are regions of the Amazon from which practically nothing is known , so these findings help us to better understand the populations that lived there and how they related to the landscape.”

According to their knowledge, these cultures probably combined small-scale agriculture with the management of fruit trees , such as chestnuts and varieties of palms.

Circles, squares and hexagons

From the air, what caught the attention of the researchers were the geoglyphs , which are ditches carved into the earth in the form of geometric figures such as circles, squares and hexagons.

a geoglyph
Image caption Researchers estimate that between 500,000 and one million people lived in the discovered villages. Photo: University of Exeter.

It is believed that these strokes were used to demarcate the fortified villages and as ceremonial centers.

Already in the field, the researchers found what they know as terra preta (black earth), a type of very fertile soil that forms in places where humans have settled for a long time.

When excavating, they found remains of ceramics and objects like axes made with carved stone.

Before, similar settlements had already been found hundreds of kilometers east and west of these villages. In addition, some historical accounts mentioned that this area was populated, which leads experts to think that they were not isolated villages, but a corridor continuously inhabited by various cultures.

For de Souza these settlements opens the way for many lessons.

“Continuing to investigate these cultures will allow us to learn how to maintain large populations in a sustainable manner with the landscape,” he says.

In addition to further research, de Souza also hopes that in the future it will not be because of the deforestation that these discoveries achieve.

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