Evidence of an ancient, advanced society in the Amazon forest?

Illustration for article titled Evidence of an ancient, advanced society in the Amazon forest?

In the depths of the Amazonian forest, long believed to be uninhabitable, archaeologists say there is evidence that a thriving civilization existed. 20 million people lived there, managing the forest, and left evidence of their complex lives behind.


Over at the Washington Post, Juan Forero reports on the archaeologists looking for evidence of a lost society in the Amazon:

Archaeologists, many of them Americans, say . . . this patch of forest, and many others across the Amazon, was home to an advanced, even spectacular civilization that managed the forest and enriched infertile soil to feed thousands.

The findings are discrediting a once-bedrock theory of archaeology that long held that the Amazon, unlike much of the Americas, was a historical black hole, its environment too hostile and its earth too poor to have ever sustained big, sedentary societies. Only small and primitive hunter-gatherer tribes, the assumption went, could ever have eked out a living in an unforgiving environment.

But scientists now believe that instead of stone-age tribes, like the groups that occasionally emerge from the forest today, the Indians who inhabited the Amazon centuries ago numbered as many as 20 million, far more people than live here today.


This is a fascinating read - check out the rest over at the Washington Post.

Image of pottery found in the Amazon by Fernanda Preto/Getty Images

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Chris Braak

Of course, when archaeologists says "advanced" they're talking about it on a sliding scale. It's not like the Amazon civilization had hovercars and laser-beam eyes.