Posted by: kshayes513 | January 6, 2010

The Real El Dorado?

People have been looking for “El Dorado” or “The City of Z,” a lost civilization in the Amazon basin, for over 500 years. Countless expeditions, from the Conquistadores to the 20th century, have gone into the rain forest hoping to find cities of gold, and never come out again; and countless storytellers, including Conan Doyle and the Indiana Jones team, have been inspired to tell stories about the search for the lost city.

Archaeologists always assumed that El Dorado was just a legend dreamed up by gold-hungry Conquistadores. Unlike the rain forests of the Yucatan and Southeast Asia, no one had ever found any traces of the large constructions that civilizations leave behind them. The scientists have assumed that Amazonian peoples have always been simple tribal societies, because the Amazonian soil was just too poor to sustain the agriculture that a large, complex society needs.

These earthworks date to 200 AD. Photo: National Geographic

All those assumptions evaporated when satellite imagery and deforestation revealed the remains of huge, orderly earthworks, not in just a few places, but scores of them, spread over hundreds of kilometers in western Brazil. And the archaeologists studying these sites think they have found only 1 tenth of them so far!

The Guardian has a news story here that gives most of the basic information. Or, if you’re a real archaeology junkie, you can download the original research article which was published in Vol. 83:322 of the scholarly journal Antiquity. It has much better photos of different sites, and a number of maps and diagrams.

I don’t know about you, but this news makes me want to start reading about ancient rain forest civilizations, and looking for a rain forest or two in Khasran where I might discover one!


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