Gallery 2
Lost History
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Gallery 2-Page 2

Civilization On The Amazon


By James Donahue


Archaeological digs in the dense jungles along South America's Amazon River have been slow in coming, mostly because the place has been home to dangerous tribes known to be inhospitable to strangers and, let's face it, nobody expected to find interesting artifacts in an equatorial jungle.


Now that encroaching "civilization" has been slashing away at the rain forests, taming the headhunters and rooting around for new places to lay cement, there has been the discovery of ancient ruins.


Archaeologist Michael Heckenberger, of the University of Florida, recently lead a team into the forests of the Upper Xingu region of central Brazil where they excavated and mapped the remains of 19 villages, roads, trenches, bridges, agricultural areas and even open parks.


The findings, consisting mostly of stone, block, pottery and earth changes, provide evidence that an extensive network of complex societies thrived in the area for more than 1,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans. Some estimates suggest a population as large as 100,000 once existed in the area.


Just who these people were, their origins, and what happened to them may never be known. Unlike the Incas, Mayans and Aztec civilizations, they did not build great stone monuments and leave carved messages in the rocks.


The hot humid environment has destroyed bones, cloth, wood or any other organic materials that would help give clues about how these people lived, what their homes looked like, the crops they ate, and other key information.


What we know at this early stage of discovery is that a lot of people once lived in that steamy place, they once thrived, and they were somewhat advanced in thought and life style, reports Heckenberger.

It is his theory that the area's indigenous people never left the area, but degenerated from cultural levels to the forest tribes existing there today.

This is a troublesome idea that needs to be explored farther. It is not the first time we have read about theories of great civilizations that existed in the distant past, only to collapse, with the people continuing to live in the area in a "primitive" state. Throughout the jungles of South America this idea has existed among scientists as they go over the ruins of great stone structures while dark skinned natives look on.


I thought about this back in my days of Christian exploration, when I also had a keen interest in archaeology. I recall writing a paper on the possibility that natives, when devoid of God, eventually lost their refinement and turned into savages.


It was a logical conclusion, I suppose, when I lived as an outsider looking in on the pot smoking, free-love life style of the hippie generation of the 1960. When compared to the controlled way in which we lived our own lives, the hippies appeared to be no better than primitive natives running naked through the forest.


But the hippies, I later learned, were not illiterate. Nor were they primitive. They were often highly educated people seeking a free lifestyle outside of the realm of controlled Christianity. Thus they did not demonstrate a breakdown of our own social structure, but rather an attempt to alter a programmed life style they did not wish to accept.


Something else happened to the civilizations that once thrived along the Amazon River in Brazil, just as it did to the great Mayan culture in Central America. I believe the people, indeed, degenerated from the human specimens they were created to be, to something less. That is because they forgot who they were, forgot their roots, and failed to evolve.


The same thing seems to be happening to the majority of the people in our own society even today. While many of us live in fine homes, drive nice cars, and give all of the appearance of being an advanced society, our education system has been compromised and the general intelligence of the society appears to be declining.


Future archaeologists may someday be digging up the remnants of our cities, the Wal-Mart stores, and super highways, and wondering what happened to the civilization that built them.