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Amazon rainforest hides over 10,000 pre-Columbian earthworks

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Archaeologists have used cutting-edge remote sensing technology, combined with statistical modelling, to estimate that there are more than 10,000 pre-Columbian earthworks hidden beneath the canopy of the Amazon rainforest.

The study has been part of an international project involving institutions from 24 counties. Vinicius Peripato, from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE), said. “Our study suggests that the Amazon rainforest may not be as pristine as many believe, as when we seek a better understanding of the extent of pre-Columbian human occupation we are surprised by a significant number of sites still unknown to the science community”.

The researchers used LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to document 25 archaeological sites. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is a method of remote sensing using light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. The differences in the laser return times and measuring the wavelengths can be used to compile a 3-D digital map of the landscape, removing obscuring features such as woodland that could hide archaeological features.

The team utilised various LiDAR databases initially acquired for biomass estimates. Peripato states: “Given the wealth of information contained in these data, we embarked on an archaeological investigation. We investigated a total of 0.08% of the Amazon and found 24 previously uncatalogued structures in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso, Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, and Pará.”

These structures, referred to as “earthworks,” predate the European arrival on the continent and are commonly linked to other landscape alterations, providing evidence of indigenous habitation in diverse Amazon regions. This evidence includes Amazonian dark earth, the presence of domesticated species, and various other indicators.

According to the researchers, 10% of the Amazon rainforest has seen landscape modification of these types. Carolina Levis from the Federal University of Santa Catarina, said: “Some time ago, ecologists viewed the Amazon as the vast untouched forest, but now, combining other types of pre-Columbian remains, we can see how many areas that currently sustain dense forest have already been subjected to extensive engineering works and the cultivation and domestication of plants by pre-Columbian societies. These people mastered sophisticated techniques for land and plant management, which, in some cases, are still present in the knowledge and practices of present-day communities that can inspire new ways to coexist with the forest without the need for its destruction”.

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Header Image Credit : Mauricio de Paiva

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Archaeology

Trove of Roman objects linked to feasting found at Ostia antica

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Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman objects linked to ritual feasting at Ostia antica.

Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour town located at the mouth of the Tiber River. The harbour served as the main port for Rome, transporting goods and people from the coast along the Via Ostiensis.

Archaeologists recently excavated the area of Regio I – Insula XV, a “sacred area” or precinct housing several temples and sanctuaries. At the centre is the temple of Hercules,  a 31 x 16 metre monument which dates from the Republican Era.

Excavations have revealed a substantial well situated at the base of the temple of Hercules. Upon draining the well, it was discovered to hold a significant collection of objects dating from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Among the objects are various ceramics, miniatures, lamps, glass containers, fragments of marble, and burnt animal bones (pigs and cattle). According to the archaeologists, the trove corresponds with ritual feasting associated with cult at the temple.

In a press statement by the Ministry of Culture: “The discovery of burnt bones confirms that animal sacrifices were carried out in the sanctuary, while the common ceramics, also bearing traces of fire, indicate that the meat was cooked and consumed during banquets in honour of divinity. The remains of one or more ritual meals were thrown into the well, the last ones probably when their function had ceased.”

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Culture

Sources : Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Labyrinthine structure discovered from the Minoan civilisation

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Archaeologists have discovered a monumental labyrinthine structure on the summit of Papoura Hill in Crete.

The discovery was made during the installation of a radar system in preparation for the construction of a new airport in the area.

According to experts, the structure dates from between 2000 to 1700 BC shortly before or at the start of the palaeopalatial Minoan period.

The Minoan civilisation was a Bronze Age culture that emerged on the island of Crete around 3100 BC. The culture is known for the monumental architecture and energetic art, and is often regarded as the first civilisation in Europe.

Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

The chronology of the Minoans is characterised into three distinct phases – Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM).

The palaeopalatial structure is part of the MMI – II grouping in the Middle Minoan, a period in which the first palaces were built and saw the development of the Minoan writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A.

The structure comprises of 8 concentric stone rings that converge on a central circular building. The entire diameter of the complex measures 48 metres and covers an area of approximately 1800 square metres.

Within the central structure are four designated zones in which radial walls intersect vertically and form a labyrinthine structure. Zones A and B appear to be have the main concentration of human activity, evidenced by the presence of large amounts of animals bones.

According to the experts, this residential area likely had a truncated cone or vaulted appearance and is the first monument of this type excavated in Crete. It can perhaps be paralleled with the elliptical MM building of the Chamezi Archaeological Site, as well as with the so-called circular proto-Hellenic cyclopean building of Tiryns.

The Minister of Culture, said: “This is a unique and highly significant find. Solutions are in place to ensure the completion of the archaeological research and the protection of the monument.”

Header Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

Sources : Greek Ministry of Culture

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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