Bolivian Amazon

Humans Explored the Amazon Much Earlier Than Previously Thought

(Read the article on one page)

New research published in the journal Plos One has revealed that humans explored the harsh environment of the western Amazon as early as 10,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought. The findings alter the map of early human occupations in South America.

Evidence came from a detailed study of small, forested mounds of earth known as ‘forest islands’, which dot the lowlands in the tropical savannah region in the Bolivian Amazon. It was believed that the forest islands were formed naturally by shifting rivers or long-term termite mounds. However, the scientists discovered that they were actually formed from massive piles of freshwater snail shells left my human settlers more than 10,000 years ago, according to carbon dating.

Samples of soil collected from the three mounds revealed they were made of a dense collection of shells, bones and charcoal. They apparently formed in two phases — an older layer made up primarily of the shells of freshwater apple snails as well as the bones of deer, fish, reptiles and birds, and an overlying layer composed of organic refuse containing pottery, bone tools and human bones.

Separating the two layers is a thin layer rich in pieces of burnt clay and earth. "My first impression is that it could be made of fragments of hearths, like ovens," said researcher Umberto Lombardo, a geographer at the University of Bern in Switzerland. "Indigenous people in the region still cook in such ovens made of clay."

The researchers suggest that hunters and gatherers brought prey there for preparation, cooking and eating; shells and other artefacts built up into mounds over approximately 6,000 years of human use. The hunter-gatherers may have eventually abandoned these sites as the climate shifted toward wetter conditions later.

The findings also have deeper implications and add to the hotly debated topic about the first humans that arrived in the Americas. Current belief is that the Clovis culture made up the first Americans and arrived about 13,000 years ago. However, scientists have recently uncovered evidence that humans were in the New World more than 14,000 years ago.

"Our discovery shows that people occupied the Llanos de Moxos in the Bolivian Amazon at least 10,500 years ago," Lombardo said. "To reach this location, people had to travel 6,000 kilometres if they came from the Atlantic coast, or they had to cross the Andes if they came from the Pacific Coast. This suggests that either they moved and adapted to new environments extremely fast or they started their journey quite a long time ago."

While archaeologists have been refusing for around 50 years to abandon the theory that the Clovis culture was the first, emerging evidence may soon challenge scientists to abandon old beliefs and start focusing on piecing together a different story.

By April Holloway

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Two of the ancient Kilwa coins.
According to Australia’s established history, European adventurers and explorers were the first foreigners to step foot on the continent – first Dutchman Willem Janszoon in 1606, and later Captain James Cook in 1770, who claimed the continent for Britain. But a series of unusual artifact discoveries over the last century may tell a different story.

Myths & Legends

Trailer for Ouija Movie. (BagoGames/CC BY 2.0) Insert: Ouija board on your skull: noe valley, san francisco (2015).
Ouija boards, also known as talking boards or spirit boards, are a relatively modern tool/game that strikes fear and wonder in the hearts of many people. Almost everyone has heard stories of someone connecting with malevolent beings or suffering unfortunate events following the use of a Ouija board. But what’s the real story behind these terrifying tales?

Human Origins

A Wa'a Kaulua (double canoe) of Hawaiian Nobility of the 18th Century. Polynesia was inhabited by skilled seafarers.
Oceania was the last region to be settled by humans and the last part of Oceania to be settled by humans was Polynesia. Polynesians are famous for their voyages to remote islands in distant parts of the Pacific. Using outrigger canoes, they founded a society across islands stretching in a triangle from the Hawaiian Islands to Easter Island to New Zealand

Ancient Technology

All images courtesy of Dr Rita Louise
The vajra is the most important ritual implement of Vajrayana Buddhism. In Sanskrit, the word vajra is defined as something hard or mighty, as in a diamond. It symbolizes an impenetrable, immovable and indestructible state of knowledge and enlightenment.

Ancient Places

Antarctica.
On a chilly winter day in 1929, Halil Edhem, the Director of Turkey's National Museum, was hunched over his solitary task of classifying documents. He pulled towards him a map drawn on Roe deer skin. As Halil opened the chart to its full dimensions (two feet by three feet wide or 60 X 90 cm) he was surprised by how much of the New World was depicted on a map which dated from 1513.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article