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Earthmovers of the Amazon

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Science  04 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5454, pp. 786-789
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5454.786

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TRINIDAD, BOLIVIA-- For more than 30 years, archaeologists have clashed over whether the vast Bolivian river basin called the Beni could provide the resources for indigenous cultures to grow beyond small, autonomous villages. Now a small but growing number of researchers believe that the region was once home to cultures fully as sophisticated as the better known, though radically different, cultures of the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayas. Although these still unnamed peoples abandoned their earthworks between 1400 and 1700 C.E., researchers say, they permanently transformed regional ecosystems--a notion with dramatic implications for conservation.