News FocusAgriculture

The Forgotten People of Amazonia

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Science  09 Aug 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5583, pp. 921
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5583.921

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For decades, few archaeologists explored the Amazon River Basin, because studies in the 1950s had concluded that the region had such intractably poor soils that it could not provide the agricultural base that researchers believed was necessary to support materially advanced cultures. Now archaeologists are beginning to explore deposits of terra preta--the Amazonian "black earth" that soil scientists believe was created by precontact indigenous settlements (see main text)--and are turning up abundant artifacts.