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Mysterious 'earthworks' found in the Amazon jungle could be clues to an ancient civilisation

Mirror logo Mirror 07-02-2017 Jeff Parsons

A set of mysterious 'earthworks' carved into the ground have been uncovered deep in the Amazon rainforest . 

Thought to date back over 2,000 years , around 450 of the ancient patterns were discovered by Brazilian and UK experts in the western Amazon. For centuries they have been hidden by trees.

Although no-one knows at the moment what these strange earthworks were used for, it challenges the theory that the rainforest's ecosystem has remained untouched by humans.

"The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are 'pristine ecosystems'," explained Dr. Jennifer Watling, a post-doctoral researcher at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at the University of São Paulo.

Credits: Jenny Watling © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Jenny Watling

Dr. Watling carried out the research whilst studying for a PhD at the University of Exeter here in the UK.

"We immediately wanted to know whether the region was already forested when the geoglyphs were built, and to what extent people impacted the landscape to build these earthworks," she said.

Dr. Watling's team believe that the irregular layout of the sites means they weren't used for villages or battle, but rather for some kind of ritualistic gathering - similar to the UK's Stonehenge.

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , Dr. Watling's team said they used cutting-edge tech to recreate the impact that a human tribe around the site may have had on the surrounding forests. 

And while they believe that they would have altered the forest to survive, it would be nothing on the scale of the current deforestation that revealed the earthworks in the first place.

"Despite the huge number and density of geoglyph sites in the region, we can be certain that Acre's forests were never cleared as extensively, or for as long, as they have been in recent years," Dr. Watling said.

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty

"Our evidence that Amazonian forests have been managed by indigenous peoples long before European Contact should not be cited as justification for the destructive, unsustainable land-use practiced today.

"It should instead serve to highlight the ingenuity of past subsistence regimes that did not lead to forest degradation, and the importance of indigenous knowledge for finding more sustainable land-use alternatives."

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