Geoglyphs in the Amazon

Researchers long thought that the cultural history of the Amazon rainforest region only featured small bands of hunters and gatherers, much like today’s indigenous cultures. Archaeological research is now showing something quite different:

Dr. Jose Iriarte of Exeter University, UK tells BBC News, “While some researchers think that Amazonia was inhabited by small bands of hunter-gatherers and shifting cultivators who had a minimal impact on the environment, and that the forest we see today is pristine and untouched for thousands of years – mounting evidence is showing this may not be the case.”

“This evidence suggests that Amazonia may have been inhabited by large, numerous, complex and hierarchical societies that had a major impact on the environment; what we call the ‘cultural parkland hypothesis’,” he continues.

As land was cleared for agriculture, people started to discover interesting earthworks long hidden by the jungle foliage. Since the late 1970s, researchers have documented over 450 different glyph areas in the Amazon. Some of the earthworks are intricate, geometric shapes. How did they get there? What were they used for? I always love pondering these kinds of mysteries. Theories about the purpose of the glyphs range from water drainage, use in ceremonials, and defensive sites. I’m looking forward to reading more research about this in the coming years.

Geoglyphs on deforested land at the Fazenda Colorada site in the Amazon rainforest, Rio Branco area, Acre. Site dated c. AD 1283. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.
Geoglyphs on deforested land at the Fazenda Colorada site in the Amazon rainforest, Rio Branco area. Site dated c. AD 1283. Photo from Wikipedia Commons.

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