Science Editorial, Oct 5 (EFE).- The Amazon jungle would hide, under its luxuriance, between 10,272 and 23,648 large pre-Columbian archaeological sites to be discovered, according to data from the largest study with remote sensing and predictive spatial models carried out to date.
Indigenous societies have inhabited the Amazon basin for more than 12,000 years, and it was known that, since their origin, they were creating structures and landscapes shaped by human action that have influenced the spatial composition of modern forests.
However, the size and scale of the Amazonian settlements and the transformation of the landscape that they entailed are largely unknown, in part because they are sites located in remote parts of the jungle that are often hidden by dense vegetation.
Thanks to remote sensing and spatial projections, an investigation, whose conclusions are published today in the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), makes the most exhaustive approach to date of pre-Columbian sites. that could house the Amazon basin.
For this study, scientist from the National Space Research Institute of Brazil, Vinicius Peripato, and his colleagues used the LIDAR system.
This remote sensing technique allows us to map small topographic changes in the existing soil surface under the forest cover, and discover previously unknown pre-Columbian structures and earthworks in heavily forested sites in Central and South America.
The researchers have analyzed 5,315 square kilometers surveyed by LIDAR and discovered up to 24 sites, among which there were fortified towns, defensive and ceremonial structures, settlements on top of mountains and areas with geoglyphs (figures drawn on the slopes of hills or plains using stones).
However, the LIDAR survey data covered only 0.08% of the total area of the Amazon.
In order to better understand where and how many undocumented pre-Columbian sites might exist, the scientists combined data from their basin-wide sampling and from other previously identified sites with a predictive spatial distribution model.
According to this model and the researchers’ calculations, the Amazon would hide between 10,272 and 23,648 large-scale pre-Columbian human structures, particularly in its southwestern area.
Furthermore, the authors have identified a significant association between the prediction of possible sites and the presence and abundance of tree species “domesticated” by human action, which would indicate that pre-Columbian indigenous forest manipulation practices long shaped the Ecology of modern forests throughout Amazonia.
“Amazon forests clearly deserve protection not only for their ecological and environmental value, but also for their high archaeological, social and biocultural value, capable of teaching modern society how to sustainably manage their natural resources,” says Peripato.
“The enormous extent of archaeological sites and extensive human-modified forests throughout the Amazon are of vital importance for establishing an accurate understanding of the interactions between human societies, Amazonian forests and the Earth’s climate,” the researchers conclude. authors.EFE