Downtown in The Lost Cities of the Amazon
by Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES ·
By Nicholas Asheshov
Some weeks ago two events, one of them startling, came together to pin-point the mysterious new conundrum of the Amazon. The first was the appearance on a busy riverbank in the Madre de Dios of a few dozen members of a previously-isolated group of Indians. They killed someone who had been trying to help them. The naked Indians, seen on TV screens around the world, were described by anthropologists as descendants of an unbroken line of hunting and gathering savages, living fossils of our neolithic past.
This is, according to new Amazon thinking, incorrect. These Indians are the sad, socially degenerated remnants of nations and tribes that were productive, sophisticated and stable just a few centuries ago.The other event was an article in The New York Times that reported on the discovery in Acre, only a few hours travel from the Madre de Dios Indians, of extensive, deep straight, or sometimes circular, trenches, ridges and mounds dating back to pre-Columbian times, indicating a large, well-developed society. This was just the latest evidence that the Amazon, or at least parts of it, was heavily populated by well-organized societies in much the same way as the high Andes were remodelled by the Tiahuanuco, the Chavin, the Chachapoyas, the Huari, and the Incas.
Over the past couple of decades the pre-history of the Americas has been revolutionized, setting off poison-tipped academic and ecological vendettas. First of all, the Americas were populated much earlier, at least 33-35,000 years ago, double the time previously calculated. That is back to Neanderthal epochs.
Second, there were many more people here when Columbus arrived than was earlier thought. And, most important, the societies and nations of the Americas were much more sophisticated and structured than was previously understood. They were agriculturalists, not the war-whoopers of the movies. Their mode of life and agriculture had massive, long-term effects on the original pre-human forests. Fire was a basic control mechanism.
Today the evidence of genetics, linguistics and archaeology is clear that the Amazon was not just an impenetrable green hell populated by primitive hunters and fishermen eking out an unchanging, culturally marginal existence. The same applies to North America. Here most of the descriptions of primitive Indians come from 18th and 19th century travelers who were seeing only the sorry leftovers of great nations that had been obliterated by smallpox, viral hepatitis, influenza and other European and African diseases. The Conquest set off the Dark Ages in the Americas. read the rest of this story…