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    Posted: 16-May-2009 at 18:10

Some claims of lost cities in the Amazons, that appeared not long ago in Nature. I don't know as yet if believe these guys or not. Since "El dorado" so many fantasies have gone around that I tend to be cautions. The news are here, anywhere.

Lost cities of the Amazon revealed

Archaeologists discover a grid of villages and managed parks
Image: Village

An artist's conception shows a Xinguano village of the Brazilian Amazon as it might have appeared before 1492. Archaeologists have found traces of wide, curbed roads and managed parkland.
 
By Kathleen Wren
Science

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2003 - Newly discovered traces of ancient roads, bridges, and plazas in Brazil’s tropical forest may help dispel the once-popular impression of an “untouched” Amazon before the Europeans’ arrival. In southern Brazil, archaeologists have found the remains of a network of urban communities that apparently hosted a population many thousands strong. Reporting their findings in the journal Science, published by AAAS, the science society, the researchers say the people who dwelled there dramatically changed their local landscape.

In the upper Xingu region of the southern Amazon, in central Brazil, Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida and his colleagues have discovered centuries-old remains of roads that appear to link a network of large villages in a carefully organized, gridlike pattern. The residents, ancestors of the modern-day Xinguanos, dug enormous ditches around the villages, built bridges and moats in wetland areas, and cultivated large tracts of land.

It seems that virtually no part of this landscape was truly wild, or “pristine.” Even some of the forested areas may have been more akin to a large park than to untouched forest, according to Heckenberger.

Too hostile for habitation?
Though multitudes of plants and animals thrive in the Amazon, the environment was long thought to be too hostile for large-scale human settlement. In particular, archaeologists believed that the soil quality was too poor to support the intensive agriculture that would be necessary to support a population of significant size.

The general impression of native Amazonians as “stone age primitives frozen at the dawn of time” has changed little over the past few centuries, Heckenberger said.

“There was this cherished image that the Amazon was pure nature. The problem is, we have very few good, empirical cases that tell us what Amazonia was like in 1492, one way or the other,” he said.

In recent years, archaeologists have been revising their view of the Amazon, sometimes provoking bitter debates over how extensively the land could have been settled by humans. A key reason for the controversy has been the lack of good physical evidence, according to Heckenberger.

The first written record that refers to the Kuikuro, a subgroup of the Xinguanos with whom Heckenberger has worked for a decade, is from 1884. But, according to the Kuikuro’s oral history, the first Europeans they encountered were slavers, around 1750. Heckenberger and his colleagues tentatively estimate that the population of the region numbered in the tens of thousands, but crashed due to enslavement and disease epidemics. By the 1950s, there were as few as 500 Xinguanos.

With indigenous Amazonians’ numbers decimated, and little concrete evidence of their earlier civilizations, researchers visiting the Amazon generally concluded that its people had always been small, “primitive” tribes who left little imprint on their environment.

Image: Settlements from satellite
A satellite image shows complex regional settlement patterns and large-scale transformations of local landscapes over the past millennium.

An urban amazon
Heckenberger’s team has found 19 settlements to date, at least four of which were major residential centers. The settlements were built around large, circular plazas, with roads leading out from them at specific angles, repeated from one plaza to the next.

Heckenberger, who collaborated with two Kuikuro chiefs on the Science study, believes the engineered features of the landscape all involved elements of the Kuikuro’s understanding of the entire cosmos. Road directions and the orientations of other structures are keyed to the directions of the sun and stars, for example. Today, the Kuikuro continue this sort of “ethnocartography,” as Heckenberger calls it.

Roads in the ancient settlements were up to 165 feet (50 meters) wide, the width of a modern-day four-lane highway, and flanked by large curbs. The researchers report that the roads linked settlements, every two to three miles (three to five kilometers), along an extensive grid. This kind of planning would have required the relatively sophisticated ability to reproduce angles over large distances, according to Heckenberger.

Where the villages converged on wetlands, the researchers discovered the remains of ancient bridges, moats and canals. The Kuikuro still use many such structures today.

The entire area in between settlements was carefully engineered and managed, according to the researchers. It was likely either cultivated, or maintained as a sort of parkland — a managed area, rather than wild or pristine forest. Satellite images reveal that the vegetation now growing in these areas looks quite different from older forest.

Conservation questions
The Upper Xingu is the largest contiguous tract of Amazonian forest still under indigenous management. Its history brings up the question of how to go about conserving the remaining Amazon. Should the goal be to preserve a “pristine” wilderness untouched by human activity? Or a working landscape that supports indigenous peoples?

Perhaps both options need not be mutually exclusive. Heckenberger is quick to point out that the Amazon is not a uniform landscape.

“Because it’s so poorly known, Western knowledge has tended to treat the area as one homogeneous thing: one big jungle, one big rainforest, one natural lab for primitive people,” Heckenberger said. “As we dig into the region, we realize that 500 years ago it was very different, and that even today there is a large amount of variation that we didn’t appreciate before.

“These people were involved in the same kinds of cultural human innovation as elsewhere in the world. We’re not talking about the Incan or Roman Empire here, but in terms of the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and elsewhere, Amazonians were no less capable of human cultural innovation than anyone else,” Heckenberger said.

© 2009 American Association for the Advancement of Science
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-May-2009 at 18:35
Heckenbergers article in SCIENCE about this subjet:
 
Michael J. Heckenberger et al (2008). Pre-Columbian Urbanism, Anthropogenic Landscapes, and the Future of the Amazon. SCIENCE 29 AUGUST 2008 VOL 321
 
It shall be really exciting to se what further research will reveal in this matter.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-May-2009 at 19:57

Reading the article, I still don't find out what is the novelty in the study of Heckenberg. Since always has been known Amazonians lived in villages. Now, for networks of tribes, that was almost common place all over the Americas, except in Patagonia. Natives didn't have "primitive" styles of life if we consider all the techniques we know they knew.

With respect to the "disapearence" of cultures, more often than not people just move from a place to the other, particularly in low density areas as the Amazons. That's the ethernal history of the Mayans, for example: getting large populations in a single spot up to the point of a environmental breakdown, and then moving elsewhere.
 
I bet the article is very interesting with respect to the degree of development of the material culture of Amazonians, but it doesn't show light on the claimed high density of people in ancient Amazons (not in a single spot).
 
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One can hope that more studies will show more light on matters like density of population, land resource management and methods of fertilising the soil with charcoal and other organic matter.
 
Here is a little Nat Geo movie about the black soils, "Terra preta":
 
 
Also the large scale fisheries are of interest as Clark Ericksons studies from Bolivia shows. Those show that protein in those days maybe wouldn´t have been such limiting factor as previously thought:
 
 
 
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Little more about fish weirs, population density and similar:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 00:12
Interesting research. However, the myth of the massive decrease in population is still there.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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There seem to be some waves of decreasing population, the first one when Europeans first arrived with diseases, war, slavery and similar. Another wave of decreasing population was during the rubberboom in the Amazon (late 19th and early 20th centuries) when many peoples became severly decimated. Also in later times there have been local exterminations.
 
One can read something about the decimation  of the indigenous peoples in the Amazon in "The Amazonian Chronicles"   by Jacques Meunier and Anne Marie Savarin or in "The Doomed Indians" by Lars Persson (one of the founders of IWGIA).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 03:56
Yes, but how many people was captured into slavery? How many intermarried with the colones? Do you have those figures?
Don't forget that all over Latin America, and still today at a smaller scale, natives have move from the "jungles" to the agricultoral lands, and then to the cities. Migration has been continued during five centuries.
As I said before, the percentage of Amerindian genes in the Brazilian population has the same importance than African, although is not noticeable in the phenotype. A large percentage of Brazilians "whites", for instance, that made half of the population, have Amerindian mtDNA. And in the so called "mixed" population (the other half) the percentages are even higher.
If you consider that Brazil has 200 million people today, and that if the genes would be separated from mixed people, and sorted out, the Amerindian contribution would be from 30 to 70 million people, then you start to realize there is something wrong with the theory of extinction.
Very simple: europeans took the women from natives. That happened all over the Americas but specially in Latin America. That's was the extinction you are looking for.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 12:47

Yes there were intermarriage, slavery, stealing of women too, but still many people went extinct and died in Brazil and in the lowlands of Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

Just a couple of figures from lowland Peru and adjacent areas of Colombia, and these figures are from extinctions in relatively late times among people whos numbers had shown some recovery after the first exctinctions a couple of hundred years earlier: In the early 20 th century the Huitotos were reduced from 50 000 to 7000. 1942 the number of huitoto-speaking numbered 1500. Bora were reduced from 15000 to 500. This is just a couple of examples. In a list of Amerindian languages made by Castelvi many from the Amazon is marked by a cross and the commentary "...exterminated by the rubber companies"

Unfortunately there is just statistics from some areas in the Amazon basin and it´s tributaries and the further back in time you go the less statistics there are to be found. So wrtitten accounts must be complemented by archaeology and other sciences. This research is still in it´s innfancy and the future will probably give many interesting resutlts concerning demography in older times.
 
One cannot just count the native genes present in todays people and say that those genes is the eqivalent of so and so many people, that is actually to invent imaginary people. Also people with mixed blood are procreating, thus creating more and more imaginary natives, with their genes hidden in the bodies of the mainstream mixed population.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 15:29
You shouldn't forget that since the very beginning priests, missioners, communists and now ecologists have exagerated numbers, in order to put presure on the crowns first, and on the government now.
 
For instance, Father Las Casas' work don't resist a serious analysis. The man exagerated the numbers of deaths and violence for a good cause, though. He managed the Spanish crown got concerned about theirs subjects, the Indians. In that sense he was fighting for a good cause, but his figures has to be taken with a bit of salt.
 
The same can be said of the Galeno's book "Open Veins of Latin America", who lies methodically, exagerating figures to the infinite, to increment the dramatic effect of his masterpiece.
 
I have studied the case of the "extinction" of the Natives of the Cannels and the Land of Fire, in southern South America. That's a very dramatic case, where people got extinct in three generations. But how things really happened? First, the natives of the region before the conquist were about 4.000. Today, theirs mixed descendents are circa the same numbers, but nobody nows the right figure.
 
First, the number of natives killed violently was small. Dozens or perhaps a hundred at much, in a period of 50 years. The largest killers was disease, in this case tuberculosis. The "go-doers" gave western clothes to natives accustumed to walk barefoot and almost naked in cold weather, and they gave them in the believe that was going to help them. Well, when cloths got wet the natives started to get sick! Besides, alcoholism and cultural shock affected them very much. Also, trying to protect the babies for the disaster, some "go-doers" missioner women robbed the babies of the natives from theirs parents!
 
No matter that, many natives addapted and started to work in the haciendas of sheeps, so common in Patagonia. Others probably migrated from the zone in search of better opportunities up north. The fact is there are many individuals of Spanish or British last names that have ancestors in that group.
 
From the direct descendents that still live in the zone, one of the more strange things is they don't want to be called Indians. They definitively crossed the line, and if you call them Indian they will be offended. Only recently some recovery of the heritage has been done.
 
So, what happened with the Onas, Alacalufes and Yaganes of southern South America, got extinct or simply addopted to the rest?
 
Yaganes, begining of the twentieth century:
 
 
The last pure Yagan persons. They left many descendents, but are mixed and don't speak the language. In fact, the current descendents are more that the previous population.
 
The descendents:
 
 
An interesting story, which also show that many descendents left the region:
 
 
 
These are people that still keep the traditions
[Gabi+4.jpg]
 
The children of Puerto Eden
 
 
 
 
A mixed family: Veronica Achacaz (Kawashkar), Pedro Vargas (average Chilean), and daughters.
 


Edited by pinguin - 17-May-2009 at 15:42
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There are different stories in different areas. In the Amazon the rubber boom severely decimated many peoples (who were recovering from earlier decimation) by forced labour, violence, diseases. Some groups also fled into other areas and other countries (for example many fled from Amazonian Peru to Amazonian Colombia). This makes it many times hard to exactly quantify decimation. But still there is a pattern of decimation, one with the first contacts and later decimations in connection with different large scale endevours of exploitation.

And also many times officials, capitalists, "developers" and others have tried to underestimate numbers in order to deny abuse and justify exploitation.
 
Here is one study about how the exploitation during the rubber boom affected one people:
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 16:51
One can also mention that also in Congo in Africa there were a boom for rubber and other natural products which resulted in genocide. The person that bore the main responsibility for this genocide was the Belgian king Leopold II.
 
"Both directly and by leasing concessions to private companies paying him 50 percent of their profits, Leopold would personally capitalize on the vast wealth extracted in rubber, ivory, and minerals during his twenty-three year reign of terror in the Belgian colony."
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 18:05
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

There are different stories in different areas. In the Amazon the rubber boom severely decimated many peoples (who were recovering from earlier decimation) by forced labour, violence, diseases. Some groups also fled into other areas and other countries (for example many fled from Amazonian Peru to Amazonian Colombia). This makes it many times hard to exactly quantify decimation. But still there is a pattern of decimation, one with the first contacts and later decimations in connection with different large scale endevours of exploitation.

And also many times officials, capitalists, "developers" and others have tried to underestimate numbers in order to deny abuse and justify exploitation.
 
 
But you are talking about events that happened in the beginning of the 20th century. For instance, with that criteria you should consider every German today as member of the Nazi party!
 
Countries change, and Brazil today is different from what it was 110 years ago. Not that is perfect, but it is different.
 
Besides, Brazil is an independent country, and foreigners fooling around with internal affairs should be careful.
 
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Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

 
But you are talking about events that happened in the beginning of the 20th century. For instance, with that criteria you should consider every German today as member of the Nazi party!
 
Countries change, and Brazil today is different from what it was 110 years ago. Not that is perfect, but it is different.
 
The persecution of indigenous peoples in Brazil still continues while jews are not exterminated in Germany anymore.
 
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Besides, Brazil is an independent country, and foreigners fooling around with internal affairs should be careful. 
 
To be an independent country is no excuse for persecuting people. Sudan is also an independant country, still UN and others critizise them heavily for what is going on in Darfur.
 
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Here is an example of what indigenous peoples have to put up with:
 
 
 
Here is some indigenous voices about their situation:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 20:49
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

... 
The persecution of indigenous peoples in Brazil still continues while jews are not exterminated in Germany anymore.
 
Show your evidence.
 
 
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

... 
To be an independent country is no excuse for persecuting people. Sudan is also an independant country, still UN and others critizise them heavily for what is going on in Darfur.
 
Then go to the place, right to the Amazon, and imposse the law and order yourself, cowboy.


Edited by pinguin - 17-May-2009 at 20:50
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 20:55
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

Here is an example of what indigenous peoples have to put up with:
 
 
 
Here is some indigenous voices about their situation:
 
 
So, do you believe survival international is the only people concerned about this?
Did you see the news published in your own magazine, afterwards?
 
See following, and please, stop treating Brazil as a banana republic.
 
 

Indígenas de todo Brasil celebran hoy que la mayoría de jueces del Supremo Tribunal Federal haya confirmado sus derechos territoriales en un juicio clave. Los representantes indígenas han declarado que esta decisión, que precisamente se produjo ayer durante la celebración del 60º aniversario de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos, supone una “gran victoria”.

La sentencia afecta al territorio indígena de Raposa-Serra do Sol (“Tierra del Zorro y Montaña del Sol”), en el estado amazónico de Roraima. Un pequeño grupo de poderosos terratenientes agrícolas que ambicionan la tierra de los indígenas y que cuentan con el respaldo de políticos locales, había solicitado al Supremo Tribunal que revocase el reconocimiento legal del territorio, que el presidente Lula ratificó en el año 2005.

Ayer, ocho de los once jueces del Supremo Tribunal confirmaron los derechos de los indígenas sobre la tierra, argumentando que había sido demarcada conforme a la Constitución. Afirmaron la importancia de mantener los territorios indígenas como áreas unidas y continuas, y establecieron que los territorios situados en los bordes fronterizos de Brasil no suponen un riesgo para la soberanía nacional.

Los cinco pueblos indígenas de Raposa habían luchado durante 30 años para recuperar su tierra ancestral. El grupo de terratenientes se negó a abandonar la zona cuando fue demarcada como territorio indígena y desde la demarcación han llevado a cabo una campaña de violencia contra los indígenas para evitar ser expulsados de la tierra.

Unas impactantes imágenes grabadas el pasado mes de mayo muestran a varios pistoleros contratados por uno de los terratenientes atacando a una comunidad indígena makuxí con bombas caseras y disparos. El ataque se saldó con un balance de 10 indígenas heridos.

Los jueces también resolvieron que los terratenientes agrícolas deberían abandonar Raposa-Serra do Sol, pero no especificaron cuándo. Esto se decidirá cuando el fallo se concluya durante la próxima sesión del juicio que comenzará en febrero del 2009, cuando los tres jueces restantes emitan sus dictámenes.

Jacir José de Souza, líder makuxí del Consejo Indígena de Roraima, declaró: “La Tierra es nuestra Madre. Estamos contentos de haberla recuperado y de que el Supremo Tribunal haya defendido a los pueblos indígenas”.

Los indígenas de Raposa-Serra do Sol creen que la pérdida de su tierra hubiera destruido su forma de vida. Todos los indígenas de Brasil temían que si el Supremo Tribunal Federal hubiera revocado la demarcación de su territorio, se habría dejado a sus tierras expuestas a tener que enfrentarse a decisiones legales similares.

El movimiento internacional por los pueblos indígenas, Survival International, ha manifestado: “Estas son noticias fantásticas para los pueblos de Raposa-Serra do Sol. El Gobierno brasileño debe asegurar ahora que los terratenientes agrícolas abandonan la zona y que finaliza la campaña de terror contra los indígenas. También debe asegurar que se respetan en todo el país los derechos territoriales de los indígenas, para que nunca más volvamos a ver semejantes ataques a los indígenas en su propia tierra”.  

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 21:14
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

So, do you believe survival international is the only people concerned about this?
Did you see the news published in your own magazine, afterwards?
 
See following, and please, stop treating Brazil as a banana republic.
 
 
I agree, the ruling of the High court was a good one. Hope they will continue their good work and ban the dam at Rio Xingu also, then maybe people seriously can start to believe that Brazil is no banana republic.
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 21:21
As I say before, there are people in Latin America fighting for justice, human rights, and land claims, since centuries ago. If you don't know them, it is your fault, not ours.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 21:53
Noone said there were no such people in Latin America. For example some of the people that are helping the Xingu people in their struggle against the Belo Monte dam are from Brazil. And they have a good cooperation with people from other countries.
 
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