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.