Hundreds of Geoglifos Discovered in the Amazon
  

Introduction - This page has been created over several years, with additions and updated files added down page. Here follow links to the most recent versions of placemark and data files, so those are no longer obfuscated below the many images, videos, and readings.

2010.01.20 - Geoglifos is the term applied in Brazil to geometric earthworks discovered after recent deforestation. Geoglyphs are not new in South American archaeology, but these are different—massive earthworks of tropical forest soil rather than desert surface alterations. The Amazon Geoglifos present geometric forms; circles, squares, ellipses, octagons, and more, with individual forms up to several hundred meters across. Some are connected by parallel walls. Their distribution spans hundreds of kilometers, and much of the area remains forested jungle.

Rio Branco geoglifo circular
Click images to view larger aerial imagery.

Geoglifos have been discovered in Google Earth by exploring areas with recent high-resolution imagery updates. (Click thumbnail images herein to view larger image files in a new window.) Recent Brazilian news videos (five reports embedded below) on the ground and from small planes clearly illustrate the impressive scale, the massiveness of the amount of earth moved, and the unique monumental quality of this ancient cultural expression.

Earthworks preservationists, researchers, and recent archaeology news feeds called my attention to these constructs enough times to finally prompt online research. I was surprised by their numbers and scale. I quickly noticed many newly-discovered earthworks are already damaged by modern roads. No wonder preservationists are raising alarms. There seems to be no respect or recognition of the unique archaeological remains. Have efforts been made to protect them? Do the forms go unnoticed on the ground in the jungle because of their large scale? The ancient human landscape has come to the attention of UNESCO, good news for conservationists while jungle deforestation marches apace. Apparently, archaeology survey needs to precede road building in this region, not follow on the deforestation.

Perhaps greater recognition of the signficance and scope of the Amazon Geoglifos discovery will protect them. With that goal in mind, here follows a collection of the current YouTube videos, my placemarks file, more images from Google Earth, and a few linked readings and online resources:

O Mistério dos Geoglifos

May 25, 2013 - Quem desenhou sulcos tão profundos no solo amazônico,
e de forma tão precisa? Por que? Quando? E com que intenção?


 
Geoglifos no Acre e no Amazonas - Fantástico 2010.02.07

Feb. 2010: Formas perfeitas escavadas no solo, espalhadas pelo extremo oeste da Amazônia, surgiram com o desmatamento para criação de gado. Chamados de geóglifos, os desenhos impressionam pela perfeição.

Coletiva sobre geoglifos

July 2009 - Pesquisadores da universidade federal do acre anunciaram hoje a
descoberta no último ano de mais 105 geoglifos no estado o desafio agora
é iniciar no próximo ano as escavações em busca da origem dessas
figuras geométricas e da civilização que as construiu.

amazon geoglyphGoogle Earth Placemarks
2011.01: amazon_geoglifos.kmz
2011.04 update:
 geoglifos_brazil.kmz

I'm posting a placemark file of the geoglyphs I could find. Recently local archaeologists thought, given the known distribution and the amount of the area deforested so far, only ten percent of the geoglifos were known. Some are visible in YouTube videos that are not yet seen on Google Earth. Hundreds exist and more will be visible and discovered as new areas of Google Earth update with hi-res images.

2014.02.02 - Updated Google Earth placemarks file with 240 geoglyphs, plus many ground lines. The new discoveries extend the area of geoglifos east, west, and south, including just across the border in Bolivia. Download brazil_geoglifos.kml. I seek additional placemarks and data files. Please GPS monuments you visit.

Rio Branco geoglifos, Acre, Brazil, vista aerea.

Acre geoglyphs aerial image

One of the largest works visible in Google Earth is near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil.
rio branco geoglyph
Click image for larger version
. Images below link to large files with updated, high resolution imagery.

Geoglifos Amazônicos

Sept. 2008 - Documentario Exibido no Fantastico, sobre Geoglifos

Geoglifos em Acrelândia

April 2008

amazon geoglyph amazon geoglyph

Geoglifo

Sept. 2006, Equipe da TBS e o palentólogo Alceu Ranzi
percorrem trecho de um geoglifo da Amazônia.


Geoglyph Readings

National Geo: "Lost" Amazon Complex Found; Shapes Seen by Satellite
The so-called 'crop circles' of Santa Teresinha are seen in a great photograph. "Satellite images ... have revealed more than 200 geometric earthworks spanning a distance greater than 155 miles (250 kilometers) ... uplands sites appear to have been home to as many as 60,000 people."

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The combination of land cleared of its rainforest for grazing and satellite survey have revealed a sophisticated pre-Columbian monument-building society in the upper Amazon Basin on the east side of the Andes. This hitherto unknown people constructed earthworks of precise geometric plan connected by straight orthogonal roads. Introducing us to this new civilisation, the authors show that the 'geoglyph culture' stretches over a region more than 250km across, and exploits both the floodplains and the uplands. They also suggest that we have so far seen no more than a tenth of it."
Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purús: a complex society in western Amazonia Martti Pärssinen, Denise Schaan and Alceu Ranzi, 2009 Antiquity 83(322):1084-1095.

"GEOGLIFOS O que são? Geoglifos são vestígios arqueológicos representados por desenhos geométricos (linhas, quadrados, círculos, octógonos, hexágonos etc...), zoomorfos (animais) ou antropomorfos (formas humanas), de grandes dimensões e elaborados sobre o solo, que podem ser totalmente e melhor observados se vistos do alto, em especial, através de sobrevôo."
geoglifos.com.br   |   links page 

Internet Software Programs Aid in Search for Amazonian Geoglyphs, Alceu Ranzi, Roberto Feres, Foster Brown EOS Vol. 88, No. 21, 22 May 2007. - The Web-based Google Earth software program recently has incorporated high-resolution satellite imagery that facilitates the search for landscape expressions of past civilizations that we call geoglyphs. Since 2000, about 40 such geoglyphs have been observed in overflights above recently deforested pastures of southwestern Amazonia in eastern Acre State, Brazil. These geoglyphs typically are circular or rectangular, on the scale of 100 meters or more, with bordering trenches 1-3 meters deep (Figure 1). Carbon-14 dating of charcoal associated with these geoglyphs indicates ages between 2500 and 1000 years B.P.

"Until the past year, high-resolution Ikonos and QuickBird imagery was too expensive for local researchers to use in surveys for geoglyphs. The incorporation of such imagery by Google Earth for extensive stretches in Amazonia has permitted researchers to search for geoglyphs in eastern Acre. Figure 2 shows how preliminary data analysis can be done with high-resolution satellite imagery to determine the areal density and distribution of geoglyphs. In this transect, 39 potential geoglyphs were observed in an examination of the imagery. Through fieldwork and overflights during the past three decades, only nine geoglyphs had been discovered in the area of the transect."

Written on the land Amazonian Geoglyphs number in the thousands and are truly spectacular, let's look at the sources ... "Ring ditch sites in Acre and the Bolivian Amazon, described as geoglyphs because of their impressive patterns (circular, oval, octagon, square, rectangle, and D-shapes), appear to be more ceremonial than residential or defensive." (Martti Parssinen, Denise Schaan & Alceu Ranzi Pre-Columbian geometric earthworks in the upper Purus: a complex society in western Amazonia)

"Ring ditch sites are reported in the Bolivian Amazon (Figure 11.5), Matto Grosso, Acre, and Upper Xingu River regions (Erickson 2002; Heckenberger 2005; Parssinen et al. 2003; Ranzi and Aguiar 2004). These sites consist of a closed or U-shaped ditched enclosure or multiple ditches. Heckenberger (2005) describes numerous sites with large open plazas and radial roads marked by earthen berms extending through residential sectors enclosed by deep semi- circular moat-like ditches and embankments." ...
"Historical ecologists respond that ignoring the complex human history of environments in Amazonia would be unwise. A vast indigenous knowledge spanning hundreds of generations about the creation, transformation, and management of environments is physically embedded in the landscape, encoded in the distribution and availability of plant and animal species, documented in historical and ethnographic accounts, and in some cases, still practiced by native Amazonians."Amazonia: The Historical Ecology of a Domesticated Landscape

geoglifos do acrelandia


Reflections

An unusual moment presents itself in the Amazon. Unlike regions where we regret past destruction, this is a region where impending destruction can still be prevented. Will the current physical destruction to the earthworks stop or continue as roads intrude in the jungle and deforestation advances? Will ethnobotanists examine the botanical flora of the clearly-demarcated ancient sites before deforestation? Will any of the still-forested sites be preserved as they are today?

Acre, brazil, square earthworks

2014.01.28 - Twenty new images of updated Google Earth aerial photography have been added to or linked from this page. Some older images now link to larger, updated imagery. Some of the largest geoglyphs are not yet seen in Google Earth, so check future updates.

In Google Earth, many geoglyph images updated since 2011, revealing new geoglyphs and providing higher resolution imagery of known geoglyphs. Detailed aerial photographs show how recent the deforestation of some of the earthworks is. They also reveal how fence lines add unwanted new erosion lines to the otherwise still pristine earthworks. Individual trees and even palm fronds are visible in the best resolution updates today, enabling better documentation and oversight of their conservation or destruction.

Rio Branco geoglyphs

Some newly discovered in Google Earth geoglyphs have been surprising. Geoglifos are now visible much further to both the west in Acre and east in Rondonia. One is seen in Bolivia, making them an international phenomena. A great variety of geometry is presented. Several of the large monuments are grouped. One of the largest of the earthworks, the Bella Flor Geoglyph, measures 380 meters on one axis, surpassing the previous largest. The new database file presents their dimensions and categorizes the geometry.

2014.10.08 - Fifty-six new Amazon geoglyphs have been noted where Google Earth images were recently updated, including an area near Boa Vista, Amazonas rich in monuments and lines (image below). To get a better idea of the pattern the images create on the earth, I used the line tool to outline the visible earthworks. New geoglyphs placemarks file: http://www.jqjacobs.net/amazon/geoglyphs.kml, updates to the Excel and KML files with this data to follow.

Amazonas geoglyphs, aerial image with outlines of earthworks.

2014.11.16 - Another Google Earth imagery update in Rondonia enabled survey of more geoglyphs. New placemarks, outlines, and lines are added to the most recent files linked above. Coordinates have been updated to uniformly reflect current imagery placements. Some site names and variables in the dataset have been edited. Currently, over 300 geoglyphs are placemarked.

Google Earth Community will be adding these placemarks online with the next update. If you see two of each placemark after opening the placemark file, you can hide the online ones by turning off Layers > Gallery > Google Earth Community in your virtual browser.

Google Earth's Historical Imagery tool is quite useful in surveying the sites. The slider facilitates switching between all the different aerial images that have been posted for every location. In some cases, older views are not deforested or overgrown and uniformly green. Other images may reveal the earthworks clearly because the pastures are closely grazed near during the dry season when vegetation colors vary. Switching between images also reveals how much placement has changed as newer images were added, illustrating why some coordinates have been updated.

Historical imagery also reveals earthwork destruction. I noticed bulldozing obliterating earthwork acrc16 (-10.0968 -67.6587) just before Sept. 2009, for the convenience of planting it seems. Plowing is impacting others. Bulldozing is used in deforestation, so many earthworks may disappear before images of them are even captured. As is typical of the "advance" of "civilization," we know not what we destroy and the destruction impedes ever knowing. Pages are being torn from the book of history written upon the earth.

The virtual resources to appreciate this incredible cultural manifestation aid in preservartion efforts. As more and more geoglyph become clearly visible in Google Earth, the immense and impressive scope of the Amazon geoglyphs becomes more apparent. We have a long way to go to understand what we are discovering. Hopefully, the Amazon geoglyphs will be one manifestation of the past that survives the present, or we may never know.


Readings

You can visually explore the earthworks, the deforestation, and expanses of forested jungle on the virtual globe. Visit http://earth.google.com for more information about Google Earth. Visit Google Earth Community to keep apace with imagery updates. I will add content below as news, publications, and good photography links develop.

Ciência anuncia 250 geoglifos descobertos no Acre (old link) - 25 de julho de 2009 - Os pesquisadores Alceu Ranzi e Denise Schaan anunciaram nesta sexta-feira, 24, a identificação de vinte novos geoglifos no Vale do Acre, elevando para 250 o número de estrutura catalogadas ... "Teremos novas escavações em 2010", informou Schaan ... o grupo de pesquisa ... "Geoglifos da Amazônia Ocidental" vem desenvolvendo desde 2005 pesquisas intensivas sobre os geoglifos no Estado, com o objetivo de fazer um amplo levantamento dos geoglifos na parte Leste do Acre. Os geoglifos fazem parte de uma lista do Instituto Nacional de Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (Iphan) para recomendar à Organização das Nações Unidas para a Educação, Ciência e Cultura (Unesco) ...

Arqueologia: novas descobertas elevam para 255 os geoglifos do Acre - julho 27, 2009 - ... um grupo de pesquisadores já identificou e catalogou a existência de 255 geoglifos na parte leste do Acre ... Os geoglifos são figuras formadas por valetas com largura média de 11 metros, tendo cada valeta de 1 a 4 metros de profundidade. A técnica construtiva inclui muretas de 6 a 8 metros com meio metro de altura. As figuram chegam a medir em média de 100 a 200 metros. Eles possuem, ainda, caminhos com 20 metros de largura ...

Abril 10, 2009 Geoglifos do Acre podem ser reconhecidos pela Unesco como Patrimônio da Humanidade no Brasil. "Os geoglifos do Acre foram incluídos pelo Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN) numa lista indicativa de bens passíveis de ser declarados pela Unesco como Patrimônio da Humanidade no Brasil."

Facebook Grupo (Spanish) - Geoglifos del Estado de Acre Brasil -
"18/04/04 - Expertos de Brasil, Italia y Finlandia estudiarán en la selva amazónica unos enigmáticos "geoglifos", enormes dibujos ... obra de una antigua civilización desaparecida. Los trazados geométricos en bajo relieve, de hasta 350 metros de largo y hasta tres metros de profundidad, fueron excavados hace cientos de años ... cerca de las fronteras con Bolivia y Perú ... Los cuadrados, círculos, hexágonos, círculos con cuadrados dentro y cuadrados que contienen círculos, pudieron haber sido hechos por indios que vivieron en la región entre 800 y 2.500 años atrás, de acuerdo al Departamento de Patrimonio Histórico y Cultural de Acre. 

Amazon explorers uncover signs of a real El Dorado by Rory Carroll, "It is the legend that drew legions of explorers and adventurers to their deaths: an ancient empire of citadels and treasure hidden deep in the Amazon jungle." ... "... only now, as satellite imagery and felling reveal sites ... the scale of the settlements is becoming clear. Some anthropologists say the feat, requiring sophisticated engineering, canals and roads, rivals Egypt's pyramids."

www.geoglifos.com.br/ - criado pelo paleontólogo Alceu Ranzi - fotos e informações podem ser obtidas - Geoglifos do Acre. More information and photos on the Geoglyphs of Acre site. Hay mas informacion y fotos en el sitio Geoglifos de Acre. Fotos/photos.

Lombardo, Umberto and Heiko Prümers 2010 Pre-Columbian human occupation patterns in the eastern plains of the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivian Amazonia, Journal of Archaeological Science 37:1875-1885.

"While researchers piece together the Amazon’s ecological history, mystery still shrouds the origins of the geoglyphs and the people who made them. So far, 290 such earthworks have been found in Acre, along with about 70 others in Bolivia and 30 in the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Rondônia ... Denise Schaan, an archaeologist at the Federal University of Pará in Brazil who now leads research on the geoglyphs, said radiocarbon testing indicated that they were built 1,000 to 2,000 years ago, and might have been rebuilt several times during that period... For Brazil’s scientists and researchers, Ms. Schaan said, the earthworks are “one of the most important discoveries of our time.” But the repopulation of this part of the Amazon threatens the survival of the geoglyphs, after being hidden for centuries. " NY Times Jan. 14, 2012

"The forested western Amazon was once thought barren of complex human culture. But researchers are now uncovering enigmatic earthworks left by large, organized societies that once lived and farmed here." Ancient Earthmovers Of the Amazon C. C. Mann 2008.

 "The unexpected discovery of immense geometrically patterned earthworks called "geogphyhs" among the terra firme rainforests of western Amazonia is radically changing our notion of past human societies in this region of the Amazon.  Over 300 of these spectacular geometric earthworks have been found across eastern Acre state, Brazil." The Geoglyphs site has a photo gallery.

Sacred Geographies of Ancient Amazonia: Historical Ecology of Social Complexity
Denise P Schaan 2011. The legendary El Dorado—the city of gold—remains a mere legend, but astonishing new discoveries are revealing a major civilization in ancient Amazonia that was more complex than anyone previously dreamed. Scholars have long insisted that the Amazonian ecosystem placed severe limits on the size and complexity of its ancient cultures, but leading researcher Denise Schaan reverses that view, synthesizing exciting new evidence of large-scale land and resource management to tell a new history of indigenous Amazonia. Schaan also engages fundamental debates about the development of social complexity and the importance of ancient Amazonia from a global perspective. This innovative, interdisciplinary book is a major contribution to the study of human-environment relations, social complexity, and past and present indigenous societies.

Professora Denise Schaan fala sobre os geoglifos da Amazônia
Portuguese radio: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYSivFWklWo

"... you found many we still didn´t have. We have identified 410 geogliphs in Acre alone." Denise Schaan (e-mail) 2014.02.

Good aerial photography with place names: Tecnologia faz descoberta de geoglifos na Amazônia saltar 1.000% em 11 anos 13/10/2012 Em junho deste ano, pesquisadores identificaram 18 novas formas geométricas no Amazonas, antes escondidas pela floresta.
"RIO BRANCO - Descobertos no Acre, os geoglifos ganharam repercussão nacional e internacional em 1977. Em entrevista ao portalamazonia.com, a atual responsável pelos estudos, pesquisadora Joanna Troufflard, conta que a identificação de novas formas geométricas na Amazônia se intensificou a partir de 2005, por meio de imagens de satélite. Até 2001, eram conhecidos apenas 24. O número saltou para 120 em 2005, e hoje são cerca de 300 somente no Acre. ..."

amazon geoglyph

Ancient Monument Placemarks

 

Acre geoglyphs aerial image

 

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