The discovery of 81 new archaeological sites across the Amazon basin suggest that nearly a million previously unaccounted for people once called the region home. For over 10 years researchers have tried to study mysterious ancient trenches cut through the soil of the Amazon. The unique lines are organized in range of shapes shapes, including rings, squares, and hexagons.
The lines are significant because they reveal that, before Europeans arrived, over a million people lived in an area that makes up only 7 percent of the entire basin.
Previous research suggests that pre-Columbian human populations lived in certain pockets around the Amazon rainforest. However, recent deforestation has cut back the growth and reveals that the gigantic geometric shapes are cut across the entire jungle. Researchers used satellite imagery to both survey the patterns and look for any undiscovered soil glyphs that could suggest the presence of an advanced civilization.
Those methods revealed 104 earthworks in more than 81 new archaeological sites. After excavating 24 of the areas, the team found evidence of pre-Columbian human habitation. There were several such sites, and they ranged from small hamlets to entirely fortified settlements. By extrapolating the data, the team estimated that people lived all throughout the Southern Rim of the Amazon.
This research is important because it challenges old estimates that only 1.5 to 2 million inhabitants lived in the entire Amazon basin. The new numbers rewrite the jungle’s history and shows that humans did not only live in concentrated areas. Rather, they spread out across the region, shifting the landscape and altering different areas wherever they went.
The team hopes to continue their exploration in order to better understand ancient Amazonian populations, as well find ways to shape policy and create a brighter future.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications,