The Amazon Rainforest May Have Been Man-Made

“Agriculture represents the single most profound ecological change in the entire 3.5 billion-year history of life.” —Niles Eldredge

In A Nutshell

The Amazon rainforest is often seen as the poster child for conservation. This last bastion of biodiversity is in great danger; thousands of square miles of the territory is deforested every year. But there is a growing pool of evidence that the Amazon rainforest is not natural at all, but the product of agriculture by ancient civilization, a vast interconnected web of “garden cities.”

The Whole Bushel

The Amazon rainforest captures our imagination like few places on the planet: Dark, lush, and mysterious, it contains some of the last unsullied tracts of wilderness in the world. But some archaeologists have begun to advance the belief that the Amazon is not a natural forest at all, but an agricultural construct of ancient indigenous people.

While the Amazon is extraordinarily rugged, it is also extremely flat, which would make it ideal for farming. Unlike many other cultures, which largely grew annual crops like corn, these natives cultivated trees, which would have showered them with a bounty of fruits and nuts over entire generations.

In the past, historians have asserted that the Amazon was populated only with small tribes (some of which still exist today, primitive and largely uncontacted) that subsisted by foraging. They claimed any kind of organized farming would have been impossible, as much of the soil in the Amazon is extremely poor. What little nutrients it holds are typically washed away by constant rainfall. However, extremely fertile land has been found radiating out from the ruins of settlements, leading researchers to conclude that people had learned many thousands of years ago how to enrich the dirt for growing purposes.

Like many theories, the idea that the Amazon was the home of advanced feats of geoengineering has generated considerable controversy. However, with evidence of innovations like man-made ponds to breed fish found throughout the forest, it can only be assumed that the natives were far more advanced than our school textbooks ever gave them credit for.

Show Me The Proof

Scientists find evidence discrediting theory Amazon was virtually unlivable
Amazon rainforest was giant garden city

  • ScepticSid

    Sounds like PR for an oil company . “People worked to create the Amazon, Chevron makes it work for you”

    • Yeah and to add to this, just because it doesn’t have a direct benefit to humanity (in terms of natural resources), doesn’t mean that it should be cut down. Sian Ka’an (Mexico’s Amazon) is having a similar problem. Although it is a world heritage site:

      http://www.travelworldheritage.com/2013/03/01/evaluating-sian-kaan-biosphere-reserve-world-heritage-site-5/

      The land can still be sold to developers who claim it is “worthless.” I would love to own a piece of it since it is so beautiful, but it is a shame how we don’t appreciate natural sites enough around the world.

      • Dumas911

        Worthless my ass. It’s the LUNGS of the Earth! Absorbing and releasing the largest amounts of CO2 and Oxygen. We’d be even more screwed without it and the Tiaga forests aroung the sub-arctic circle.

  • See that tree there? Yeah, I planted it.

  • Fresco Martinez

    We need a good oil spill

  • Fresco Martinez

    To bring us together like the Beatles

  • Arsnl

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs. Am i supposed to believe people planted an area bigger than the European Union? Sure, they found human activity in the forest, but that doesnt mean humans made it. There’re traces of human activity on the moon, that doesnt mean men made the moon.
    To plant the amazon rainforest it would have taken heck hundreds of years. Weird how there are no written documents, drawings, anything.

    • Michael North

      I believe the theory is that there were small, unconnected garden cities that over millenia grew into what we now know as The Amazon.
      Just like if everybody on your block planted an apple tree in their backyard. Fast forward 2000 years, and that place would likely have a lot of apple trees. : P

      • Dumas911

        That’s what I was going to point out. Birds, rain, animals all help in spreading seeds, so it’s plausible that 8,9,10,000 yrs ago it began as many tree plantations.

  • Da Silva

    I doubt it..

  • Oli

    Although I know nowhere near enough to be able to comment on the authenticity of these theories, I do think the idea of “garden cities” can excite the imagination and would certainly provide inspiration for any sci-fi/fantasy author.

  • The first Spaniards to descend the Amazon from the Andes to the Atlantic observed that the entire length of the river was occupied on both sides by thousands of villages. After European diseases decimated the populations and terminated these cultures, the river bank was left unpopulated. These people who were known to have existed by the hundreds of thousands if not millions, lived on something.

    Artificially fertilized areas have been identified in now unoccupied parts of the Amazon basin. Somebody made them, and had a reason for doing so.

  • Hestie Barnard Gerber

    That is amazing. Definitely going to Google the manmade fishponds tomorrow.

  • Matt Oldham

    I don’t know why the best evidence was left out: black soil along the riverbanks best explained as once extensive habitation by a very large population enriching it with refuse over a very long time period. That the entire forest is the result of human activity seems ridiculous. On the other hand it offers hope that we can counteract greenhouse gas buildup. So far humans have put nearly all of our energy into exploiting the environment and subsequently degrading it; a concentrated effort in the opposite direction might be far more effective than we dared to dream.