The Amazon Geoglyphs

The Amazon has always had a certain veil of mystery around it. The untouched nature, the various indigenous tribes have all captured the imagination of filmmakers, artists and regular people alike.

But for all its glory, the Amazon is still at the mercy of the human race. And we all know it has suffered from human interference. One thing that is leaving scientists stumped the most are the geoglyphs scattered throughout the Amazon forest. These ancient geoglyphs are definitely human-made structures as they are traced into the earth with rocks and various debris. The first geoglyphs were discovered during the 1960s when cattle ranchers began the deforestation of the Amazon. The exciting thing is that these magnificent shapes only appeared after the forests were burned down. This indicates that the ancient people that created them used the same method to reveal them.

Unfortunately, new research reveals that today’s forests do not bounce back as quickly as the old ones have. And there is little reason for us to hope that they might. Just in the last half a century modern deforestation has destroyed more than 20 percent of the Amazon rain forests.

These geoglyphs are clear indicators that the Amazon forests were never kept, nor are they supposed to be, in pristine condition. It has been proven before that some forests have evolved to burn. Their evolution and growth even depended on the fires that consumed them. It is evident that the forests have been influenced by people in the past, but they always grew back. It might have taken a few centuries, but they did. Does all this mean that people need to leave the Amazonian forests alone entirely? Not quite.

New data has surfaced that our ancestors cleared these forests at a much smaller scale. Today’s cattle ranchers destroy large pieces of land, much larger than the ones destroyed before. The fact is these forests are used to a certain degree of meddling from our side, but at this rate we are risking permanent damage.

There are no records or any parallels for the degree of destruction present today, and that is alarming. There is some evidence of controlled burns within the geoglyphs of Acre. This is a state located in the western part of Brazil, and it is currently undergoing massive deforestation. By analyzing the charcoal found in surrounding soil, as well as the stable carbon isotopes and phytoliths, scientists were able to recreate and simulate around 6,000 years of the Amazon’s ecological history for that particular part of the forest. What they found, by analyzing charcoal layers, is that early human settlers used fire to clear out land even some 4,000 years ago.

Further research revealed that the early settlers did not go about this unprepared. The traces left behind clearly indicate that they focused heavily on preserving palm trees while eradicating bamboo trees. This makes perfect sense, as the palm tree gave much more benefits than bamboo.

What scientists know for sure is that the practice of creating these geoglyphs began some 2,000 years ago. What we do not know still is why it exactly started. What is known is that the land around the geoglyphs has been cleared by fire. The burns were contained around the design’s location.

This tells us that ancient people of the Amazon used mixed subsistence strategies to manage their environment. This involved focusing on the preservation of useful tree species when starting deforestation. The big issue now is that there is no evidence that large-scale deforestation has ever previously been conducted, so there is no way for us to know if the forests can ever recover on their own.


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