- Currently, more than 500 geoglyphs are documented in both an Excel spreadsheet and Google Earth placemark files. The geoglyphs are placemarked, all except the smallest earthworks are outlined, plus visible ancient lines are highlighted. This page was created over several years, with additions blogged chronologically down page. First, links to the most recent data files:
Space Archaeology in the Amazon, Beni, Bolivia Placemarks - bolivia.kml
Hundreds of Geoglifos Discovered in the Amazon
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. Some resemble geometric earthworks in the Ohio Valley.
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 on the ground and from small planes, embedded below, 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. 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, placemark links, more images from Google Earth, readings, and online resource links:
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?
Na Trilha dos Geoglifos
Oct 26, 2013 - Documentário de Marisa Dwir, sobre as grandes marcas no solo do
Estado do Acre. Esse documentário fala sobre a descoberta dos Geoglifos, as pesquisa
que estão sendo realizadas, quais as áreas de pesquisas e como estão sendo feitas.
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.
- 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.
- Globo has an excellent video with their news report With a unanimous decision, geoglifo in Rio Branco is the first to be registered by IPHAN on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. IPHAN's president Kátia Bogéa pointed out "It is something extremely relevant and important about the trajectory of human beings on Earth...."
"... the discovery of Pre-Columbian ditched enclosures in the Tapajós headwaters. The results show that an 1800 km stretch of southern Amazonia was occupied by earth-building cultures...."
"The possible geographical continuity of late Pre-Columbian earth
building cultures across all southern Amazonia has been envisaged
for nearly a decade; however, archaeological evidence of
such long-range connections remained elusive. The results of our
survey in the Tapajós headwaters confirm that ditched enclosures
are found over an 1800 km east–west belt along the SRA. The
expansion in earthwork construction and the peak of occupation
at most sites—both in the eastern and western extremes of the
SRA—occurred between Cal AD 1250 and 1500. During this
time, the whole SRA was settled by dense populations...." (emphasis added)
- A BBC article Brazil Amazon: Drone to scan for ancient Amazonia reports a $1.9 million grant from the European Research Council to laser scan for Amazon geoglyphs. This is great news for geoglyph research and hopefully for preservation of some grand, historically-unaltered earthworks and their ecology:
... A drone will be sent up with a laser instrument to peer through the canopy for earthworks...
This vehicle's lidar instrument should reveal how many more geoglyphs remain hidden beneath still-canopied regions of Amazonia. ...
No-one is really quite sure what these earthen circles, squares and lines represent. ...
"It’s a hot debate right now in New World archaeology," said Dr Jose Iriarte...
... Dependendo dos dados obtidos, eles também podem ser usados para a elaboração de políticas de uso sustentável da floresta.
Mas a questão mais importante é tentar compreender a escala e as atividades das populações que viveram na Amazônia no final do período antes da chegada dos europeus à América, ou seja, os últimos 3 mil anos antes de 1490....
Among other objectives, (Dr. José) Iriarte hopes to test this idea of large, complex and hierarchical societies in the Amazon, known as the “cultural parkland hypothesis’, by conducting an intensive study of four distinct regions across the Amazon, implementing a battery of state-of-the-art techniques from the social and natural sciences, including archaeology, archaeobotany, ethnohistory, and paleoecology, in conjunction with remote sensing technology. ...
Videos and Graphics - Vídeos e Imagens
One of the largest works
visible in Google Earth is near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil.
Click image for larger version.
Images below link to large files with updated, high resolution imagery.
2008 - Documentario Exibido no Fantastico, sobre Geoglifos
Geoglifos em Acrelândia
2006, Equipe da TBS e o palentólogo Alceu Ranzi
percorrem trecho de um geoglifo da Amazônia.
Geoglyph Readings - Geoglifo Leituras
National Geo: "Lost"
Amazon Complex Found; Shapes Seen by Satellite
The so-called 'crop circles' of Santa Teresinha are seen in a great
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."
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
— geoglifos.com.br | links page
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
"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
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?
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 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 earthworks are protected by laws, which apparently are either ignored or not enforced.
The virtual resources to appreciate this incredible cultural manifestation aid in preservartion efforts. As more and more geoglyphs 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.
- With all 2015 and 2016 surveys to date and data consolidation, the data files now include 440 geoglyphs. Excel and Google Earth files are updated, and archaeogeodesy.xls has all 2015 data.
After discovering the first geoglyph in Peru and several more in Bolivia, I renamed the files Amazon Geoglyphs. Included for comparison are several large geoglyphs in Beni, Bolivia. Also, compare the Kazakhstan geoglyphs.
Clark L. Erickson 2015: Pre-Columbian Monumental Landscapes in the Bolivian Amazon
Space Archaeology in the Amazon,
- After catching up the Amazon Geoglyphs survey, I turned to the adjacent area to the south in Bolivia. Several areas with newly updated hi-res imagery in Google Earth had dense prehistoric occupation with earth moving cultural expressions. This Amazonian region, a vast, seasonally flooded savannah known as Llanos de Mojos, is particularly rich in archaeology. Elaborate causeway and canal networks and extensive raised agricultural fields are visible along with geometric earthworks and mounds. Survey results are placemarked in a new Google Earth KML file:
Space archaeology has become easier over the last decade as more high resolution imagery is published. I can't keep up, but I'll keep trying. Already, more areas in Bolivia are updated and many more earthworks are visible, so I'll update this file later. Check the ArchaeoBlog for the latest news. Meanwhile, in the bolivia.kml zero in on the immense zanjas in southeast Mojos and their lunar major alignment.
Recent research references, unsorted, from above KML file, lead to the researchers working in the region. The linked articles provide further bibliographies.
Walker, John H. 2008 "Llanos de Mojos;' in William Isbell and Helaine Silverman, eds., South American Archaeology. New York: Kluwer, 927-940.
Nordenskiold, Erland 1913 "U rnengraber und Mounds im Bolivianischen FlacWande;' BaesslerArchiv 3: 205-255.
More Readings - Mais Leituras
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.
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) ...
novas descobertas elevam para 255 os geoglifos do Acre - julho 27,
... 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
amazónica unos enigmáticos "geoglifos", enormes dibujos
obra de una antigua civilización desaparecida. Los trazados
en bajo relieve, de hasta 350 metros de largo y hasta tres metros de
fueron excavados hace cientos de años ... cerca de las fronteras
y Perú ... Los cuadrados, círculos, hexágonos,
con cuadrados dentro y cuadrados que contienen círculos,
pudieron haber sido
hechos por indios que vivieron en la región entre 800 y 2.500
atrás, de acuerdo al Departamento de Patrimonio Histórico
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.
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.
"... 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. ..."