Archaeologists Find The Amazon Was Home To Ancient Civilization With A Million People


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“Our research shows we need to re-evaluate the history of the Amazon,” say researchers.

The distribution of the potential sites suggests an interconnected, advanced series of fortified villages spanning over 1,100 miles that flourished between 1200 and 1500 A.D.

According to recent studies, southern parts of the Amazon rainforest were covered by a vast network of ancient settlements and ceremonial centers long before the arrival of Columbus. Researchers have shown how complex societies—of around one million inhabitants—existed in the Amazon as early as 1250AD.

The National Geographic Society partially funded the new study published in the Journal Nature Communications.

Amazon Geoglyph photo. Credit: Jenny Watling

The study details parts of the Amazon rainforest thought to have been uninhabited to be home of a thriving ancient culture with more than one million inhabitants.

So far, researchers have discovered around 1,500 fortified villages in the Amazon rainforest, built far away from major rivers.

By excavating charcoal remains and pottery, archeologists have discovered an area of 1,800 kilometers in Southern Amazon that is believed to have continuously been occupied as early as 1250 AD.

This discovery contradicts earlier beliefs that ancient communities preferred to build villages near rivers and lakes.

Geoglyphs in the southern Amazon are evidence of a once-thriving population. Image Credit: University of Exeter.

But most importantly, the new finding has helped scholars fill in a major gap in the history of the Amazon and its ancient inhabitants. Furthermore, it provides conclusive evidence that parts of the Amazon thought to have been untouched by human occupation were under heavily influenced by ancient cultures.

Many people have the image that it’s an untouched paradise,” says Jonas Gregorio de Souza, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter who collaborated on the project.

Much of the Amazon remains unexplored and is covered in dense forest, making it nearly inaccessible to archaeologists and other scholars interested in learning more about life away from the mighty river.

As noted by the National Geographic, “the distribution of the potential sites suggests an interconnected, advanced series of fortified villages spanning over 1,100 miles that flourished between 1200 and 1500 A.D.”

“We need to re-evaluate the history of the Amazon,” said José Iriarte, an archaeologist at the University of Exeter, National Geographic Explorer, and the paper’s primary author, in a press release.

Aerial photo of an archaeological site — a circular enclosure (140 m diameter) located on a hilltop. Image Credit: José Iriarte.

“Our research shows we need to re-evaluate the history of the Amazon. It certainly wasn’t an area populated only near the banks of large rivers, and the people who lived there did change the landscape. The area we surveyed had a population of at least tens of thousands.”

So far, archaeologists have revealed that there are around 1,300 geoglyphs and villages in a 154,000 square-mile swath of Southern Amazonia.


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