Fans of histories of ancient England and neighboring lands will be thrilled to find that Stonehenge was not alone among great earthworks of ancient times.
Hundreds of old earthworks resembling those at Stonehenge were built in the Amazon rainforest, a whole continent away, scientists have discovered after flying drones over the area.
The findings prove for the first time that prehistoric settlers in Brazil cleared large wooded areas to create huge enclosure. The rainforests at that time were supposed to be “pristine,” or untouched by human mechanics. Obviously, these forests were encroached upon, although not despoiled.
The enclosures, in the western Brazilian Amazon, have been concealed for centuries by trees, but modern deforestation has allowed 450 earthworks to emerge from the undergrowth. Scientists from the UK and Brazil flew drones over the site and officially spotted the hinges. The earthworks are also known by archaeologists as “geoglyphs” and date from around the year zero.
Jennifer Watling, a researcher at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Sao Paulo, said the function of the sites represents Neolithic causeway enclosures, such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England “It is likely the geoglyphs were used…for public gathering, ritual sites,” Dr. Watling said. Although the English Stonehenge is 2,500 years older than the Brazilian geoglyphs, they probably represent a similar period in social development.
This discovery also reverses the assumption that the rainforest ecosystem has been untouched by humans.
“The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath more mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are ‘pristine ecosystems,’” said Dr. Watling.