Recently, archaeologists found remains of a multitude of fortified villages deep in the Amazon. Now, it seems that the southern region of the Amazon used to be home to one million peoples during the pre-Columbian era. This is much more than anyone in recent years assumed.
Faculty member of the University of Exeter, Jonas De Souza, explains there is still much of the Amazon that remains a mystery. He says that explorations keep discovering more and more settled areas of the basin than originally expected.
Our understanding of the Amazon Basin’s population is a bit strange considering the first reports of Europeans to the region. Early travelers reported seeing a multitude of settlements as well as roads. However, authorities dismissed their claims as fake. For centuries, many believed that the Amazon was just wilderness before Europeans arrived. Many believed only one million lived in the entirety of the Amazon basin.
A positive from a negative : deforestation in the Amazon reveals ancient Pre-Columbian settlements
Through the increase in deforestation, the truth about the basin has begun to surface. Now with trees diminishing, ancient settlements and earthworks are popping up. Estimations to the population pre-European arrival are now to ten million. Most of these peoples were wiped out by western disease and genocide.
So far, most of the evidence for past habitats has been located on the fertile floodplains by major rivers. Only a small number have been found higher in the basin in areas known as terra firme.
De Souza and his colleagues thought to search an area of terra firme in by the Tapajós river in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Located almost 2000 km upstream from the Amazon’s mouth, no one thought it contained archaeological sites.
Through the use of satellite images, De Souza and crew located 81 sites. The sites ranged from single hamlets to fortified villages with roads. The most grand covered an expanse of 20 hectares (49 acres). The team visited twenty-four of them and confirmed to be Pre-Columbian as predicted. One site dates between 1410 and 1460.
Pre-Columbian civilizations had less destructive ways of farming than those in modern times. Although slashing-and-burning to grow crops did happen, they planted many fruit and nut trees. As of 2017, many of these types of trees were still thriving in the archaeological sites.