Researchers unearth more lost cities in So. America
- The Ancient Phoenician Connection in the Americas-more traditional circles and squares ..Amazon revolution? Researchers unearth lost citiesMore ancient fort and burial sites shown below
Some of the 260 ancient earthworks located in the Amazon basin by archeologist Denise Schaan and her colleagues, which are challenging traditional assumptions about the region's history. (Courtesy of Denise Schaan)
As the evidence mounts, it's challenging conventional wisdom of the Amazon as a place so inhospitable it could only support small, nomadic tribes.
Instead it seems that large, complex societies may have tamed parts of the Amazon centuries before Spanish explorers sailed across the Atlantic. As that idea gains momentum, it's also gaining more attention beyond archaeological circles.
"There is now becoming, not just in the scientific and academic work but in the public world, a sense of the breadth of these discoveries," Grann told CTV.ca from New York. "They're transforming our view of what the Americas looked like before Columbus."
"It's finally kind of breaking through."
Last month, a major archeological find was published in the British journal Antiquity. Using Google Earth and other satellite imagery, researchers found 260 geometrical shapes dug into a now-deforested 250-kilometre stretch of the upper Amazon basin.
"We know they're spread over this wide region and they display very similar construction techniques," said Denise Schaan, an archeologist from Brazil's University of Para who co-authored the study. "So if it was not a single people building them, they had a kind of culture or religion that was spread over that territory."
"We want to know who built these structures and for what reason," Schaan added, speculating that they could have been fortified villages or ceremonial centres.
Some of the earthworks may date as far back as AD 200, a millennium before the Incan empire was founded. As many as 60,000 people lived in or near the "perfect circles, rectangles and composite figures" carved into the ground, the researchers reported. And many were linked by bridges or "avenue-like" roads.
What's more, Schaan and her colleagues suspect there could be 10-times as many earthworks in surrounding areas, where the jungle is still standing.
The people who inhabited the sites disappeared around the same time that Spanish conquistadors ventured into South America, suggesting that diseases from Europe may have wiped them out.
A number of earlier discoveries suggest the Amazon was by no means virgin rainforest before the Age of Discovery began.
Archaeologists came across a series of 127 granite blocks on a Brazilian hilltop in 2006. Some of the blocks appear to be arranged astrologically, and may have been placed there as long as 2,000 years ago. The site has become know as the Stonehenge of the Amazon.
In 1996, American archaeologist Anna C. Roosevelt, a great-granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt, found a series of 11,000-year-old wall paintings in a Brazilian cave. The paintings are so old they're challenging long-held assumptions about when the Americas were first settled and by whom...More at http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100129/amazon_discoveries_100131/20100131?hub=TopStoriesV2