Researchers discover Amazon basin was once home to a lost civilization of millions
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Just when we think we know everything, along comes another discovery to surprise us. A surprising study on the Amazon basin reveals that the region was once home to millions of people, many more than previously believed. The population disappeared only after the arrival of Europeans.
The site of an abandoned village, centuries old, surrounded by earthworks.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Researchers have made a stunning discovery about the Amazon basin. A survey of the upper Tapajos Basin reveals that the region was once home to millions of people.
While it has long been known that people lived in the region prior to European arrival it was believed they lived close to the waterways and that their population was small. Evidence now suggests both these ideas are incorrect.
Instead, millions of people once lived in the region, dispersed between more than 81 different sites, some far from water.
Lead author, Dr. Jonas Gregorio de Souza from the University of Exeter said, "The idea that the Amazon was a pristine forest, untouched by humans, home to scattered nomadic populations... we already knew that was not true... The big debate is how populations were distributed in pre-Columbian times in the Amazon."
The researchers identified 81 sites from satellite imagery in the Tapajos Basin and visited 24 on the ground. Surveys on the ground revealed ceramics, stone tools, and ground worked for agriculture. They also found evidence of earthworks, primitive fortifications that would have helped defend some sites from possible attack.
Carbon dating revealed that population and activity in the region started to flourish around 1200 A.D., and continued to increase until 1500, around the time of European arrival. It is possible that after 1500, a lethal cocktail of diseases introduced by the Europeans would have passed through the people in waves, causing most of them to die out.
Today, there are about 100 tribes of uncontacted people int he world, with several living in the Amazon basin where they are protected by law. Contact with these people is forbidden in part because contact would expose them to lethal diseases. These people may be the surviving descendants of those who lived in the area hundreds of years ago.
Researchers believe they have discovered only about 40 percent of the sites that exist in the region.
As much as we think we know about the world, discoveries like these remind us that we still have much to learn.
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