Acre had a dense network of roads between villages before the Europeans came – 12/29/2020 – Science

Shortly before the arrival of Europeans in South America, the forests of Acre were cleared by a relatively dense network of roads that could be several kilometers long and interconnected villages built on small artificial hills.

The discovery by scientists from Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Finland confirms the notion that the Pre-Calabral Amazon had a sizeable population made up of societies that by then had already significantly transformed the forest. In the case of the Acre, the finds appear to be linked to another archaeological mystery in the area, the famous geoglyphs – large geometric patterns on the ground that have been identified through aerial observations over the past few decades.

“In some cases the villages and roads are literally next to the geoglyphs. There is a certain interpolation between the two, ”says Eduardo Góes Neves from the USP’s Archaeological and Ethnological Museum. While the road and village network is between 700 and 400 years old, geoglyphs are older and were traced 3,000 to 1,000 years ago.

“She [os construtores das estradas] They probably knew they were occupying landscapes that are the result of older, centuries-old processes, ”says Neves, one of the authors of the study that describes the results, which was recently published in the journal Latin American Antiquity.

Also signed are Francisco Pugliese from the University of Brasilia, Sanna Saunaluoma from the University of Turku (Finland) and Justin Moat from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, London.

Using a combination of traditional excavations, analysis of satellite imagery and exploration of the site using drones, the team has so far identified 18 archaeological sites linked by the road network in the Iquiri River region (see infographic). In general, the villages have an area of ​​up to three hectares and occupy a flat area with a circular or elliptical shape.

These circles, or ellipses, are formed by anything between 15 and 25 strained – man-made mounds formed by the accumulation of earth – that can be up to 25 meters long and 2.5 meters high. In the middle of the area bounded by the treasures was a kind of courtyard. Every old village is crossed by several straight streets up to 6 meters wide. The routes mapped so far suggest that they not only served to connect one settlement to another, but also to facilitate access for the prehistoric population to the courses. Water in the region.

Also, there seems to be some connection between the village streets and those that pass through the geoglyphs. The difference between the two types of construction is likely related to their functions. The previous excavations in the geoglyphs have found very few ceramic remains, which leads archaeologists to postulate that the geometric patterns (squares, circles, diamonds, etc.) delimited by ditches and ditches had a ritual function and played the role of sacred spaces in the region. .

The areas shaped by the treasures and the road network feature a much greater variety of ceramics, generally intended for domestic use, as well as polished stone axes. Such artifacts come from the treasures themselves, while the central terreiro usually does not bring any archaeological finds. Interestingly, Neves says, the team has not yet found any stacking holes or other direct evidence that houses or malocas were housed in the man-made mounds.

There is some urgency to document these areas as, believing that they will be completely closed after the discoveries, the landowners sometimes choose to destroy the archaeological sites. Although large areas of acre have already been cleared, it is still difficult to know if even wider structures are hidden in areas of still dense forest.

To intensify data collection, the researchers intend to collaborate with the Earth Archive project, led by archaeologist Chris Fisher of Colorado State University (USA). The Earth Archives intend to map areas such as the Amazon using “lidar” technology, which uses laser pulses from airplanes to capture details of the relief that are normally difficult to see.

It is the same technique that helped uncover ruins of the Mayan civilization hidden in the closed forest in Central America, and it can also become an important tool in Amazonian archeology. We are a family business.

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