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26 January 2012
Ancient geoglyphs found under Amazonian rainforest

In an area on the western boundary of the Brazilian Amazon, known as Acre, rare geoglyphs have been uncovered by a farmer clearing his land. The area has long been believed to have been forested for thousands of years, with no appreciable human occupation. But this theory is now under fire.
     The farmer, senhor Ara├║jo, thought at first that they were part of abandoned fortifications from the Bolivian War but recent work by archaeologists has dated them at between 1,000 and 2,000 years old, representing a picture of the landscape in the time before Columbus arrived in the Americas.
     The geoglyphs uncovered on senhor Araújo's land are deeply carved earth avenues, up to 6 and a half metres deep. Alceu Ranzi, a Brazilian palaeontologist involved in uncovering some of these geoglyphs, believes that they are highly significant. He is quoted as saying "What impressed me the most about these geoglyphs was their geometric precision, and how they emerged from the forest we had all been taught was untouched except by a few nomadic tribes".
     These finds are now causing alarm bells to ring with environmentalists, as they present a view of a much smaller rainforest. William woods, a geographer who is part of the team investigating the Acre site, is quoted as saying "If one wants to recreate pre-Columbian Amazonia most of the forest needs to be removed, with many people and a managed, highly productive landscape replacing it. I know that this will not sit well with ardent environmentalists but what else can one say?"

Edited from The New York Times (14 January 2012)

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