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Wed Nov 27, 2019, 05:23 AM

Archaeologists fear Bolsonaro agenda will kill Amazon civilisation research

Source: The Guardian

Archaeologists fear Bolsonaro agenda will kill Amazon civilisation research

Brazil’s president has cut science funding while opening the region to loggers, miners and farmers – putting priceless evidence of ancient cultures at risk

Laurence Blair in Floresta Nacional de Tefé, Amazonas
Tue 26 Nov 2019 09.30 GMT
Last modified on Tue 26 Nov 2019 16.55 GMT

When archaeologists Eduardo Kazuo and Márjorie Lima recently unearthed nine pre-Columbian funerary urns in Tauary – a tiny community in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest – their immediate reaction was “a mix of pleasure and desperation”.

The bulbous vessels – containing human remains and writhing with anthropomorphic painted serpents and monkeys – are the only ones of their kind to be excavated intact.

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Recent findings are radically changing our understanding of the region’s prehistory. New evidence suggests that pre-Columbian Amazonian civilisations were comparable in scale and complexity to better-known Andean and Mesoamerican cultures. They had populations numbering in the millions, living in interconnected, fortified villages. They left rock art, vast ceremonial earthworks, sprawling irrigation channels and causeways, but any stone buildings, described in fanciful accounts by conquistadors, have not survived. Perhaps even more intriguingly, a growing body of research suggests that much of the world’s largest rainforest was moulded by humans.

But archaeologists across the Amazon warn that progress is imperilled by the policies of Brazil’s nationalist president, Jair Bolsonaro. The field is facing dramatic funding cuts, while proposed legal changes on salvage archaeology will endanger priceless physical evidence.

And the mass displacement of indigenous communities – resulting from Bolsonaro’s promises to turn the Amazon over to loggers, miners and farmers in the name of development – risks destroying the local knowledge needed to reconstruct the Amazon’s past, and potentially safeguard its future.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/26/brazil-amazon-archaeologists-bolsonaro-civilisation

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