Remnants of ancient society found in Ecuador’s cloud forest

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Image credit: Andean Trails

In the 1850s, a team of botanists venturing into the cloud forest in the Quijos Valley of eastern Ecuador hacked their way through vegetation so thick they could barely make their way forward. This, they thought, was the heart of the pristine forest.

Indigenous Quijo groups had developed sophisticated agricultural settlements across the region, settlements that had been decimated with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In their absence, the forest sprung back. This process of societal collapse and forest reclamation is described in a new study.

The study’s researchers found a tiny lake in the valley and dug down into the silt at the bottom, pulling up a plug of sediment that had built up over the last 1000 years—and found evidence of human occupation going back to the very oldest part of the core.

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In the oldest layers, scientists found tiny pieces of pollen—swept from the valley and the surrounding forest into the lake by wind—from maize and other plants that only grow in open, airy conditions, which told them that humans were cultivating plants.

When the next round of European explorers passed through in the 1850s and 60s, they saw only forest so dense they imagined it had always been untrammeled. But what they saw, [author Nick] Loughlin says, was something that already shifted away from fully “pristine.”

Read full, original post: Traces of Lost Society Found in ‘Pristine’ Cloud Forest

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