When you think of the Amazon, you probably automatically think of inhospitable rainforest, intense heat and humidity, and a whole host of critters you probably wouldn’t want to get up close and personal with. Not without them buying you dinner first. Yet, this is what most people and scientists think of when they think of the pre-Columbian Amazon basin. Many believe that the area could never have sustained life – but it seems they were wrong. Indeed, this part of the Amazon thought to be uninhabited may have been home to 1 million people!
Whether you’ve been to the Amazon rainforest yourself, or whether you’ve simply seen it in movies or on television, you’ll know that there are trees and foliage everywhere. Quite literally. This type of hot and humid environment is a breeding ground for animals and creatures, and is not the kind of place that would normally be hospitable. Because of this, experts have always come to the conclusion that before the Spanish colonization, the area was completely uninhabited. After all, if you lived in that area, you would steer clear of the dense jungle and stick to the rivers and waterways, right? This is what experts have always expected of the nomads who lived during this period – but it seems their thoughts have since been scuppered.
Exploring a little further
Thanks to modern technology, teams of experts from the University of Exeter have been able to explore a little further and venture into the areas of the Brazilian Amazon that most people have avoided because of the treacherous conditions. Yet, they haven’t actually set foot on Brazilian soil! Instead, this team has been able to use satellite imagery to look around the Mato Grosso area of the Amazon which has largely been devoid of people. What they were looking for were geoglyphs, that have often been carved into the ground by ancient peoples for ceremonies or celebrations. Normally, in areas where there has previously been human life living there, geoglyphs are relatively common.
Searching in the soil
After noticing these geoglyphs via satellite in this area, the team of archaeologists decided to take a trip to the area itself to search in the soil to find hints of human life. As they searched even further, they were able to uncover more and more geoglyphs and accounted for a whopping 81 in total. Hidden beneath the soil of these areas they also found historical objects such as pottery and charcoal which they managed to date back to 1410 CE.
Creating a model
As the research team uncovered even more geoglyphs and artifacts, they were able to produce a real-life model of what the area would have looked like back in the day. They were able to uncover locations for roads, villages and more, and noted that his whole area would have made up 7% of the Amazon basin. With all of the hints towards human life, these researchers could no longer abide by the theory that the area was inhabited. In fact, by their calculations, the area could have been home to around 500,000 – 1 million people.
A sad end
This new discovery shocked experts around the world, but what they wanted to know next was why these settlements came to a sad end. As they dug further and researched this time period, the researchers came to the conclusion that the Amazonian people had passed away during the European invasion. Many would have died from disease, others from genocide, and others by the destruction of their homes.
One of the most amazing things about modern technology is that we can learn something new every single day, and thanks to new satellite images, these researchers have discovered that a part of the Amazon originally thought to be uninhabited was actually home to around 1 million people!