Ancient Amazon settlements
Long before the arrival of Europeans, up to a million people thrived in large, complex villages buried deep within the Amazon rain forest. A team of archaeologists found 81 ancient settlements in the Upper Tapajós Basin, along Brazil’s border with Bolivia, NationalGeographic.com reports. The settlements, which are roughly 500 to 750 years old, challenge long-standing views of the Amazon as pristine wilderness. “There is a common misconception that the Amazon is an untouched landscape, home to scattered, nomadic communities,” says study author Jonas Gregorio de Souza. “This is not the case. We have found that some populations away from the major rivers are much larger than previously thought, and these people had an impact on the environment which we can still find today.” Satellite images reveal dozens of geoglyphs, or geometric-shaped trenches carved into the landscape. Ground surveys revealed abandoned stone tools, broken ceramics, buried trash, and terra preta—a type of charcoal-enriched, fertile soil made by ancient Amazonian civilizations.