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Re-writing History to Celebrate the Forgotten Heroes

History can be resurrected from the dead, made alive in new ways and directions. History is what we make of it. We encourage you to blog about our true heroes from long ago who gave their lives for their people, for justice, for the generations to come, in the best way that they saw fit.

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Terra Preta (Black Earth), Amazon Densely Populated

The Historical Mystery of the Amazon

For a long time, it was believed that Amazon forest dwellers were sparsely populated hunter-gatherer tribes. Archeologist Betty J. Meggers was a prominent proponent of this idea, as described in her book Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise. However, recent archeological findings have suggested that the region was actually densely populated. From the 1970s, numerous geoglyphs have been discovered on deforested land dating between 0–1250 AD, leading to claims about Pre-Columbian civilizations. The BBC's Unnatural Histories claimed that the Amazon rainforest, rather than being a pristine wilderness, has been shaped by man for at least 11,000 years through practices such as forest gardening.[7]

The first European to travel the length of the Amazon River was Francisco de Orellana in 1542. The BBC documentary Unnatural Histories presents evidence that Francisco de Orellana, rather than exaggerating his claims as previously thought, was correct in his observations that an advanced civilization was flourishing along the Amazon in the 1540s. It is believed that the civilization was later devastated by the spread of diseases from Europe, such as smallpox. Some 5 million people may have lived in the Amazon region in 1500, divided between dense coastal settlements, such as that at Marajó, and inland dwellers. By 1900 the population had fallen to 1 million and by the early 1980s it was less than 200,000.

One of the main pieces of evidence is the existence of the fertile Terra preta (black earth), which is distributed over large areas in the Amazon forest. It is now widely accepted that these soils are a product of indigenous soil management. The development of this soil allowed agriculture and silviculture in the previously hostile environment; meaning that large portions of the Amazon rainforest are probably the result of centuries of human management, rather than naturally occurring as has previously been supposed. In the region of the Xinguanos tribe, remains of some of these large settlements in the middle of the Amazon forest were found in 2003 by Michael Heckenberger and colleagues of the University of Florida. Among those were evidence of roads, bridges and large plazas.

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