AFTER flying drones over the Amazon rainforest, scientists discovered hundreds of ancient earthworks resembling those at Stonehenge.
Researchers said the enclosures, which had previously been concealed by trees for centuries, dated from around the year zero and proved prehistoric settlers in the western Brazilian Amazon performed deforestation to create huge enclosures.
Post-doctoral researcher at the São Paulo Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography Jennifer Watling said the function of the sites are unknown.
She added the sites resembled those found at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, which are from the Neolithic age — a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 10,200BC.
“It is likely that the geoglyphs were used for similar functions to the Neolithic causewayed enclosures, i.e. public gathering, ritual sites,” she told The Telegraph.
“It is interesting to note that the format of the geoglyphs, with an outer ditch and inner wall enclosure, are what classicly describe henge sites. The earliest phases at Stonhenge consisted of a similarly layed-out enclosure.”
The findings prove the rainforest in the western Brazilian Amazon is actually much newer than ecologists first thought.
“The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are ‘pristine ecosystems,’” she said.
“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.”
Researchers were able to reconstruct 6000 years of vegetation and fire history around two enclosure sites using state-of-the-art technology and were able to discover humans heavily altered bamboo forests to build the geoglyphs.
The teams findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.