"prehistoric settlers in Brazil cleared large wooded areas to create huge enclosures"



Hundreds of ancient earthworks resembling Stonehenge found in Amazon rainforest— Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph

Hundreds of ancient earthworks resembling those at Stonehenge were built in the Amazon rainforest, 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 enclosures meaning that the ‘pristine’ rainforest celebrated by ecologists is actually relatively new.

The ditched enclosures, in Acre state in the western Brazilian Amazon, have been concealed for centuries by trees, but modern deforestation has allowed 450 to emerge from the undergrowth. They were discovered after scientists from the UK and Brazil flew drones over last year.

The earthworks, known by archaeologists as ‘geoglyphs’ probably date from around the year zero.

Although the function of the sites is unknown Dr Watling said they resembled Neolithic causewayed enclosures found at sites such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, although they appear to be more regular.

“It is likely that the geoglyphs were used for similar functions to the Neolithic causewayed enclosures, i.e. public gathering, ritual sites,” said Dr Watling.

“It is interesting to note that the format of the geoglyphs, with an outer ditch and inner wall enclosure, are what classically describe henge sites. The earliest phases at Stonehenge consisted of a similarly layed-out enclosure.”

Their discovery also reverses assumptions that the rainforest ecosystem has been untouched by humans.

“The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are ‘pristine ecosystems,’" added Dr Watling.