Skip to comments.Hidden shell middens reveal ancient human presence in Bolivian Amazon
Posted on 09/02/2013 8:22:20 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
Previously unknown archeological sites in forest islands reveal human presence in the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, according to research published August 28 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Umberto Lombardo from the University of Bern, Switzerland and colleagues from other institutions.
The study focuses on a region in the Bolivian Amazon thought to be rarely occupied by pre-agricultural communities due to unfavorable environmental conditions. Hundreds of 'forest islands'- small forested mounds of earth- are found throughout the region, their origins attributed to termites, erosion or ancient human activity. In this study, the authors report that three of these islands are shell middens, mounds of seashells left by settlers in the early Holocene period, approximately 10,400 years ago.
Samples of soil from these three mounds revealed a dense accumulation of freshwater snail shells, animal bones and charcoal forming the middens. The mounds appear to have formed in two phases: an older layer composed primarily of snail shells, and an overlying layer composed of organic matter containing pottery, bone tools and human bones. The two are separated by a thin layer rich in pieces of burnt clay and earth, and the uppermost layer of deposits was also seen to contain occasional fragments of earthenware pottery. Radiocarbon analysis of two middens indicates that humans settled in this region during the early Holocene, approximately 10,400 years ago, and shells and other artefacts built up into mounds over an approximately 6,000 year period of human use. The sites may have been abandoned as climate shifted towards wetter conditions later. Lombardo adds, "We have discovered the oldest archaeological sites in western and southern Amazonia. These sites allow us to reconstruct 10,000 years of human-environment interactions in the Bolivian Amazon."
(Excerpt) Read more at eurekalert.org ...
Figure 3. Cross-section transect of the shell midden SM1. Dashed lines and grey arrow highlight the onion-like growth of the midden reflected in the 14C dates. The black triangles above mark the coring locations and the white triangle the excavation site. The location of the transect and excavation is shown in Fig 1d.
Charles C. Mann wrote about this in his book “1491.”
You would like this book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BT1DVHS
What did he call it? Indian soil? Something like that. Incredibly rich. Totally unexpected since the prevailing thinking was rain forest soils were too poor to support any kind of human population.
terra preta de índio (”black earth of the Indian”,
Author: David Gramm. Published by Vintage Departures Division of Random House, 2010. The first explorers to travel the length of the AMazon reported a populous region, with many large and busy cities on its banks, among other wonders.
"So where are they?" wondered intrepid explorer Col. Percy Fawcett, from 1906 through 1914, and again in the 1920s. He disappeared into the jungle and many expeditions were sent to find him or news of him in the years that followed.
In modern times, teams of archeologists have figured out that these mysterious regions were heavily populated and had large impressive cities, with sophisticated agriculture ...permaculture ... that was capable of supporting huge populations, perhaps wiped out by pandemics of disease introduced by the Spaniards and Portuguese.
Several American Universities and Brazilian archaelogists are very busy sorting it all out. Leading the field, Mike Heckenberger of the University of Florida.
So check out the book, the true story of a great explorer, Col Percy H. Fawcett.
Now the phrase Hidden Midden is stuck in my brain. Thanks a lot.
See post #62 in this thread:
Earth Movers of the Amazon
Climate change shifted toward wetter conditions? Or a neighboring tribe tried to tax their carbon?
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