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Pre-Colombian Amazon

Ancient occupation of the Amazon

An area of 154 square kilometers in the Amazon, equivalent to 3.2% of the forest and twice the size of Portugal, may have been occupied by indigenous groups with hundreds of thousands of members for relatively long periods before the arrival of European settlers (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, January 2014).  This is the area that an international group of researchers, including archaeologist Eduardo Góes Neves, of the University of São Paulo (USP), believes has a type of very fertile soil, called black soil, which can store traces of ancient human occupation.  The researchers arrived at this estimate by comparing information from nearly a thousand black soil areas that have already been mapped to studies that did not report this type of soil.  When comparing the information, they detected black soil distribution patterns and concluded that the probability of finding them near rivers in the eastern and central Amazon region is greater than in the western Amazon or areas near the Andes.  These results could guide research in areas occupied by pre-Columbian populations, which are difficult to identify under the forest trees.