[permaculture] EARTHWORKS: Archaeologists Have Discovered More Than 450 Large Geometrical Geoglyphs in the Amazonian Rainforest

Lawrence London lfljvenaura at gmail.com
Mon Feb 13 22:44:56 EST 2017


EARTHWORKS:  Archaeologists Have Discovered More Than 450 Large Geometrical
Geoglyphs in the Amazonian Rainforest
http://sciencenewsjournal.com/archaeologists-discovered-450-large-geometrical-geoglyphs-amazonian-rainforest/

Permaculture (Reddit subreddit)
Comments:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Permaculture/comments/5tu324/deforestation_reveals_littleunderstood_geoglyphs/?st=iz4zcywu&sh=de8e096a
1) "Semi nomadic people's would clear areas for settlement, concentrate
fruit seeds in large orchards through trash accumulation, use of fire for
hunting adding biochar to the soil, the accumulation of refuse, etc...It
all added up and massively shaped the Amazon rainforest. Some 6 million
people were believed to have lived in the Amazon prior to 1492, in large
semi permanent cities who were linked to other smaller spur settlements by
roads. They built using wood, and soil. When they died off due to massive
plagues, the forest rapidly reclaimed their dwellings."
2) what is the relatyionship between this and similar sites and Terra
Preta? - LL

[image: amazon forest] What was the function of these geometrical geoglyphs
is still unclear. Credit: Jenny Watling
History <http://sciencenewsjournal.com/category/history/> Archaeologists
Have Discovered More Than 450 Large Geometrical Geoglyphs in the Amazonian
Rainforest
February 9, 2017

*Ancient people built hundreds of huge, mysterious earthworks in the
Amazonian rainforest more than two thousand years ago, transforming the
forests in the process.*

UK and Brazilian experts have found new evidence
<http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_568689_en.html> in Acre
state in the western Brazilian Amazon that sheds some light on how
indigenous people lived in the Amazon long before Europeans arrived in the
region. Trees concealed the abandoned enclosures for centuries, but modern
deforestation has resulted in the uncovering of more than 450 of these
large geometrical geoglyphs.

The purpose of these enigmatic sites is still not understood. As very few
artifacts were recovered during excavation, they are unlikely to have been
villages. The layout also does not suggest that they had been built for
defensive purposes. The current thinking among archaeologists is that they
were used only infrequently, perhaps as ritual gathering places.

The structures are abandoned enclosures that occupy approximately 13,000
square kilometers. The common belief that the rainforest ecosystem has been
untouched by humans is challenged by this discovery.

Jennifer Watling, a post-doctoral researcher at the Museum of Archaeology
and Ethnography, University of São Paulo
<http://www5.usp.br/english/?lang=en>, carried out this research while she
was studying for a PhD at the University of Exeter
<http://www.exeter.ac.uk/>. Dr Watling noted that the idea that Amazonian
forests are ‘pristine ecosystems` is strongly challenged by the fact that
these sites had been concealed beneath the mature rainforest for centuries.
[image: Geoglyph]
<http://sciencenewsjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/geogly.jpg>Geoglyph
photo. Credit: Jenny Watling

Watling and her team immediately had two questions when the structures were
discovered:

   1. To what extent was the landscape impacted when these earthworks were
   built?
   2. Was the region already forested when the geoglyphs were built?

The team members used state of the art methods and managed to reconstruct
6000 years of fire and vegetation history around two of the geoglyph sites.
They found that the clearings that were made to build the geoglyphs were
small and temporary, and that bamboo forests were heavily changed by humans
for millennia.

The people of that time did not burning large swathes of forest, either for
agricultural practices or for geoglyph construction, but rather transformed
their environment by concentrating on economically valuable tree species
such as palms, and then creating a type of market of useful forest products.

The team found enticing evidence that suggests that the biodiversity of
some of the remaining forests in Acre may have been influenced to a large
degree by these ancient ‘agroforestry’ practices. Dr. Watling did however
note that it is certain that Acre’s forests were never cleared for as long,
or as extensively, as they have been in recent times, in spite of the large
density and number of geoglyph sites in the region,




Watling also strongly cautioned that the evidence that indigenous peoples
have managed the Amazonian forests long before European Contact should not
be used to justify the destructive and unsustainable land use practiced
nowadays. It should rather serve to emphasize the importance of native
knowledge for finding more ecologically sustainable land use alternatives
and the ingenuity of past subsistence establishments that did not lead to
wiping out forests.

The team dug up soil samples from a series of pits outside of, and within
the geoglyphs, to conduct the study. From these samples, a type of
microscopic plant fossil made of silica called ‘phytoliths’ was analyzed.

This enabled the team to reconstruct the following:

   - Carbon stable isotopes was used to determine how overgrown the
   vegetation was in the past.
   - Charcoal quantities was used to evaluate the amount of ancient forest
   burning.
   - Ancient vegetation.


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