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Ancient Amazon civilisation laid bare by felled forest

December 16, 2009
clipped from www.newscientist.com

Uncovering civilisation (Image: Edison Caetano)

Signs of what could be a previously unknown ancient civilisation are emerging from beneath the felled trees of the Amazon. Some 260 giant avenues, ditches and enclosures have been spotted from the air in a region straddling Brazil’s border with Bolivia.

The traditional view is that before the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th century there were no complex societies in the Amazon basin – in contrast to the Andes further west where the Incas built their cities. Now deforestation, increased air travel and satellite imagery are telling a different story.

“It’s never-ending,” says Denise Schaan of the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil, who made many of the new discoveries from planes or by examining Google Earth images. “Every week we find new structures.” Some of them are square or rectangular, while others form concentric circles or complex geometric figures such as hexagons and octagons connected by avenues or roads. The researchers describe them all as geoglyphs.

clipped from www.newscientist.com

The geoglyphs are thought to date from around 2000 years ago up to the 13th century (Image: Edison Caetano)
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