Odd Ditches Made Before Amazon Rainforest Grew
Study: Before it was jungle, it was savannah
By Shelley Hazen, Newser User
Posted Jul 8, 2014 5:31 PM CDT
   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Some 3,000 years ago, the Bolivian Amazon didn’t look like a jungle at all—it was more like an African savannah. A new study reveals how the ancient landscape took shape, and sheds new light on the mysterious ditches the early Amazonians built there for purposes unknown. The key to the finding is pollen: As LiveScience reports, British researchers studied sediment cores from two lakes near the ditches and found that the ancient Amazon was neither deforested or virgin, but just very dry. The ancient pollen found in the cores hailed from grasses and drought-resistant trees; then about 2,000 years ago something shifted—pollen from fewer drought-resistant species and more evergreens showed up, suggesting more precipitation.

How this ties back to the ditches, which are square, straight, and circular in shape; measure up to 16 feet deep; and have been found throughout the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazon: There had long been a debate over the toll the area's early people exacted on the forest. As LiveScience explains, some believed they "conducted major slash-and-burn operations"; other researchers thought they were gentle. As the lead researcher now puts it, they were "neither." The ditches came before that 2,000-year-old shift, indicating the people made their ditches—whether for defense, drainage or ceremonial purposes—before the forest took shape ... which explains why they were able to build there with only stone tools. LiveScience has some photos of the earthworks. Unfortunately, the deforestation that revealed them has increased.

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Showing 3 of 19 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Jul 9, 2014 9:00 PM CDT
Satellite based high definition radar also shows a hidden road system put in by the Incans. We don't know what is all hidden in Central and South America and that's fine until the current inhabitants don't know what it is and use it for road rubble. That has resulted in the loss of significant ancient sites. They tear down a pyramid to use for road rock.
GreekChorus
Jul 9, 2014 3:14 PM CDT
Save the Amazon Rainforest Restore the Amazon Savanna
FarmerM
Jul 9, 2014 9:41 AM CDT
Forests in North America and in the Amazon area share a source---man, specifically locals. In North America, beneficial trees flourished--mostly nut trees. In the Amazon the pollen comes from fruit trees. Locals were making their own "garden" although Europeans when they arrived declared it was a virgin paradise, rather than crediting local ag practices different form their own.