Who would've thought deforestation had an upside?
Satellite flyovers of newly cleared land in the Amazon have uncovered a vanished civilization that could rival the Incans or Aztecs in sophistication.
Researchers found mysterious geometric trenches and other earthworks carved into the landscape as early as a decade ago, but satellites have paved the way for the discovery of over 200 giant structures.
Writing in the journal Antiquity, the researchers say the the formations stretch for some 250 kilometers (155 miles) across the upper Amazon basin east of the Andes mountains and appear to be of a similar style throughout, suggesting one vast, united civilization that could have totaled some 60,000 inhabitants.
Researchers also found stone tools, bits of ceramics, and other artifacts buried in mounds along the trenches. So far, the uncovered areas date to between 200 and 1283 A.D., but the team thinks they've seen "no more than a tenth" of the true extent of this archeological wonder. More from an article which appeared Tuesday in the Guardian:
"These revelations are exploding our perceptions of what the Americas really looked liked before the arrival of Christopher Columbus," said David Grann, author of "The Lost City of Z," a book about an attempt in the 1920s to find signs of Amazonian civilizations. "The discoveries are challenging long-held assumptions about the Amazon as a Hobbesian place where only small primitive tribes could ever have existed, and about the limits the environment placed on the rise of early civilisations."
They are also vindicating, said Grann, Percy Fawcett, the explorer who partly inspired Conan Doyle's book "The Lost World."
Fawcett led an expedition to find the City of Z but the party vanished, bequeathing a mystery.
Many scientists saw the jungle as too harsh to sustain anything but small nomadic tribes. Now it seems the conquistadores who spoke of "cities that glistened in white" were telling the truth.
They, however, probably also introduced the diseases that wiped out the native people, leaving the jungle to claim – and hide – all traces of their civilization.
Images: National Geographic via the Guardian, Antiquity