Ancient Amazon Settlements Uncovered
Researchers Find Evidence of Sophisticated, Pre-Columbia Civilization in Amazon River Basin
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON Sept. 18 ?
The Amazon River basin was not all a pristine, untouched wilderness before Columbus came to the Americas, as was once believed. Researchers have uncovered clusters of extensive settlements linked by wide roads with other communities and surrounded by agricultural developments.
The researchers, including some descendants of pre-Columbian tribes that lived along the Amazon, have found evidence of densely settled, well-organized communities with roads, moats and bridges in the Upper Xingu part of the vast tropical region.
Michael J. Heckenberger, first author of the study appearing this week in the journal Science, said that the ancestors of the Kuikuro people in the Amazon basin had a "complex and sophisticated" civilization with a population of many thousands during the period before 1492.
"These people were not the small mobile bands or simple dispersed populations" that some earlier studies had suggested, he said.
Instead, the people demonstrated sophisticated levels of engineering, planning, cooperation and architecture in carving out of the tropical rain forest a system of interconnected villages and towns making up a widespread culture based on farming.
Heckenberger said the society that lived in the Amazon before Columbus were overlooked by experts because they did not build the massive cities and pyramids and other structures common to the Mayans, Aztecs and other pre-Columbian societies in South America.
Instead, they built towns, villages and smaller hamlets all laced together by precisely designed roads, some more than 50 yards across, that went in straight lines from one point to another.
"They were not organized in cities," Heckenberger said. "There was a different pattern of small settlements, but they were all tightly integrated.
He said the population in one village and town complex was 2,500 to 5,000 people, but that could be just one of many complexes in the Amazon region.
"All the roads were positioned according to the same angles and they formed a grid throughout the region," he said. Only a small part of these roads has been uncovered and it is uncertain how far the roads extend, but the area studied by his group is a grid 15 miles by 15 miles, he said.
Heckenberger said the people did not build with stone, as did the Mayas, but made tools and other equipment of wood and bone. Such materials quickly deteriorate in the tropical forest, unlike more durable stone structures. Building stones were not readily available along the Amazon, he said.
He said the Amazon people moved huge amounts of dirt to build roads and plazas. At one place, there is evidence that they even built a bridge spanning a major river. The people also altered the natural forest, planting and maintaining orchards and agricultural fields and the effects of this stewardship can still be seen today, Heckenberger said.
Diseases such as smallpox and measles, brought to the new world by European explorers, are thought to have wiped out most of the population along the Amazon, he said. By the time scientists began studying the indigenous people, the population was sparse and far flung. As a result, some researchers assumed that that was the way it was prior to Columbus.
The new studies, Heckenberger said, show that the Amazon basin once was the center of a stable, well-coordinated and sophisticated society.
posted on 09/20/2003 6:18:40 PM PDT
(The Preamble to the Bill of Rights - without it, our Bill of Rights is meaningless!)
Pre-colombian? Wide roads?
Expect an influx of LDS folks trying to buy up all the surrounding real estate. Not to mention buying up the original research to salt away in the temple vaults.
posted on 09/20/2003 6:30:24 PM PDT
("Open war is upon you, whether would risk it or not." (Aragorn))
...the people demonstrated sophisticated levels of engineering, planning, cooperation and architecture in carving out of the tropical rain forest a system of interconnected villages and towns making up a widespread culture based on farming...
So sophisticated, in fact, that they developed both the mud hut and the spear. Simply amazing and much greater in depth and breadth than anything the silly old white man came up with.
posted on 09/20/2003 8:13:32 PM PDT
by AD from SpringBay
(We have the government we allow and deserve.)
the population in one village and town complex was 2,500 to 5,000 people
Utopology suggests that the ideal utopian population would be 5000. Most utopias have fewer and fail for a variety of reasons. These villages seem to be planned, and that is interesting in itself. Perhaps they were built by someone other than what is considered local natives. They failed eventually even with the ideal population.
posted on 03/26/2005 10:02:47 AM PST
(Please correct if cosmic balance requires.)
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson