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Published on Mar 12, 2015
Traditionally, archaeologists have the vast Amazon region of South America to be a cultural backwater compared to the better-known civilizations that developed in the Americas. Scholars stress the limitations of tropical environments and lack of critical technological innovations to sustain civilizations. In recent years, the documentation of raised field agriculture, black earth, managed forests, hydraulic engineering, and large settlements in the Amazon has questioned traditional assumptions. Dr. Erickson, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Anthropology, has documented fascinating monumental earthworks called ring ditches or geoglyphs that encircle areas of several acres to nearly a square mile. Some earthworks are precisely constructed in geometric patterns that suggest a concern for landscape design, appearance, and aesthetics. Deep ditches imply that huge volumes of earth moved. Various hypotheses are presented for the functions of earthworks. The existence of earthworks of such magnitude and density throughout Western Amazonia shows the ability of native peoples to transform their landscapes at a massive scale. Sponsored by donors to the Shepard Krech III Lecture Fund and the Friends of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology.