Monday, December 26, 2016

The Historical Atlas of New York City

An amazing book - abundantly illustrated with maps, old pictures, photographs, and various other diagrams, The Historical Atlas of New York City is a treasure trove of historical info and sheds interesting insight as to how life was at various times through the years past.

Below are a few graphics gleaned online
The West Side Docks
(lower manhattan)
 Page samples form book:

Further Info

New York City in 10½ Historical Maps (Jared Farmer)

New York City Historical Maps (David Rumsey)
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Interactive Map Comparing New York City (1836 to Today)

Old Maps of New York
Old public domain maps

Historic USGS Maps (1891, 1897 and 1900)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Staggering Discoveries in The Amazon (Part 3)

Archeologists and anthropologists have long hypothesized that Native American ancestors entered from Siberia across Beringia, a land bridge made accessible by a substantial lowering of the sea-level toward the end of the last Ice Age.
Map of early human migrations
The staggering discovery recently of very ancient sites in much of South America that pre-dated by many centuries the long accepted oldest sites in North America has forced archaeologists to reconsider early human migration patterns.

Revised Migration Theories
In recent decades, genetics has provided new techniques to shed light on America’s first colonizers, particularly regarding the timing of their arrival and the routes they took.

Archaeological Research in the Amazon 

Archaeology in the Amazon has not been easy. Few rock formations in the jungle meant that any ancient buildings had to rely on wood. Once untended, or abandoned, they would soon be quickly swallowed by the jungle and turn to rot. In addition. early South American “monumental architecture” was expressed in packed dirt which was washed back into the alluvial floodplain long ago, effectively preventing archaeological discovery until the recent development of sophisticated techniques of remote sensing and reconstruction. 

Detailed below are a few of the highlights of ancient human settlement in the Amazon and elsewhere in Brazil.

Marajo Island

Anna Curtenius Roosevelt, the great-granddaughter of United States President Theodore Roosevelt is a leading American archeologist studying Paleoindians in the Amazon basin. In the 1980s on Marajo Island, at the mouth of the Amazon, she turned up house foundations, elaborate pottery and evidence of an agriculture so advanced she believes the society there possibly had well over 100,000 inhabitants.
In her book: “Moundbuilders of the Amazon”, Roosevelt documents the existence of a major moundbuilding culture possessing monumental architecture and a rich artistic tradition on the lowland tropical floodplain of Marajo Island at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. A well developed civilization existed there from about 400 AD to 1,300 AD, comparable in many ways to the Inca civilization to the west or to the Aztec and Maya cultures to the north.
Marajo Island, at the mouth of the Amazon
Distribution of Marajoara phase sites and pottery styles


Kuhikugu is an archaeological site located in Brazil, at the headwaters of the Xingu River, in the Amazon Rainforest. In this region, A series of settlements connected by roads has been found which may have  have supported as many as 50,000 people. This was covered more extensively on Part 2 (posted previously): Amazon - Indigenous People / Lost Cities?

Painted Rock Cave

A cave in the Amazon River basin near the town of Monte Alegre in northern Brazil has yielded evidence that people migrating from North to South America some 11,000 years ago did not settle exclusively in the Andes as previously believed. The new thinking suggests either that Paleo-indians branched east into the tropics or that a separate migration of people was involved.

Pedra Furada (Pierced Rock) sites

Located in the northeast of Brazil, the state of PiauĂ­ contains over 400 archaeological sites and the largest concentration of rock paintings in the world. The area includes a collection of rock shelters used for thousands of years by human populations.

Terra Preta (Black Soil)

In the Amazon Basin, outside Manaus, Brazil, Eduardo Neves, a renowned Brazilian archaeologist, and American scientists have found huge swaths of "terra preta," so-called Indian dark earth. This is a very dark earth made fertile by mixing charcoal, human waste and other organic matter with soil.  The varied features of the dark earths throughout the Amazon Basin suggest the existence of an extensive ancient native civilization dating back 500 to 25,00 years. In 15 years of work, scientists have also found vast orchards of semi-domesticated fruit trees suggesting large scale agriculture was developed by these ancient settlers.
Terra Preta

Amazon’s Stonehenge

Lastly — near the village of Calcoene, just north of the equator in the very northern Brazilian state of Amapa — a fascinating grouping of granite blocks along a grassy Amazon hilltop was discovered.

This site may be the vestiges of a centuries-old astronomical observatory — a find that archaeologists say shows early rainforest inhabitants were more sophisticated than previously believed. On the shortest day of the year, Dec. 21, the shadow of one of the blocks disappears when the sun is directly above it.
The Amazon Stonehenge

Further Info (Source and Credits)

Amazonia first inhabitants
Peopling of South America
The Amazon Trail
Scientists find evidence discrediting theory Amazon was virtually unlivable
Arrival of Paleo-Indians to the Southern Cone of South America
Marajo Island and Anna Curtenius Roosevelt
Marajoara culture (Wikipedia)
Moundbuilders of the Amazon - Book Review
Pre-Columbian occupation on Marajo Island
The Painted Rock Cave
In an Amazon Cave, Light Is Shed on Early Americans
Caverna da Pedra Pintada (Wikipedia)
Terra Preta 
Terra preta (Wikipedia)
Pedra Furada
Pedra Furada sites (Wikipedia)
The Amazon Stonehenge
Stonehenge of the Amazon (Wikipedia)
Another ‘Stonehenge’ discovered in Amazon
Megalithic Observatory (shows google map location)

Earthmovers of the Amazon (Bolivia’s Beni region)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Amazon - Indigenous People / Lost Cities? (Part 2)

The Amazon's tropical rainforests have captivated the Western imagination long before they took center stage in the world's environmental crisis. Mere mention of the Amazon conjures evocative images of dripping, vegetation-choked jungles; cryptic, colorful and often dangerous wildlife; endlessly convoluted river networks; and half-naked primitive tribes.

The Kuikuro

The Kuikuro are an indigenous ethnic group from the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, they are one of the Xingu tribes that are living near the Xingu River. Xingu people represent fifteen tribes and all four of Brazil's indigenous language groups, but they share similar belief systems, rituals and ceremonies.
Explore the area using Google Aerial Mapping
Link >
Kuikuro villages are shaped in a circle with a central patio. Their houses--called malocas--are inhabited by one or more extended families.

Prior to European Conquest

Many historically-minded researchers, archaeologists and geographers, are now challenging the view of the Amazon being a pure, unadulterated nature, of wilderness little impacted by indigenous peoples. There has been a quiet revolution brewing for several decades that suggests the Amazon was teeming with people in 1492, and that prior to European conquest, over five million indigenous people lived in the Brazilian Amazon.

A series of settlements connected by roads has been found at the headwaters of the Xingu River in an area previously buried beneath the dense foliage in what is now Xingu National Park. This is the proximity where world-famous Percy Fawcett went missing  (see earlier post).

The Upper Xingu region was heavily populated prior to European and African contact. Densely populated settlements developed from 1200 to 1600. Ancient roads and bridges linked communities that were often surrounded by ditches or moats. The villages were pre-planned and featured circular plazas similar to the villages in the region today.

Anthropologist Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida teamed with the local Kuikuro people in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso to uncover 28 towns, villages and hamlets that may have supported as many as 50,000 people within the forest—an area slightly smaller than New Jersey. The larger towns boasted defensive ditches 10 feet deep and 33 feet wide backed by a wooden palisade as well as large plazas, some reaching 490 feet across.

Satellite pictures reveal that during that time, the inhabitants carved roads through the jungle; all plaza villages had a major road that ran northeast to southwest along the summer solstice axis and linked to other settlements as much as three miles away. There were bridges on some of the roads and others had canoe canals running alongside them.
Buried plazas unearthed by archaeologists
An artist's rendition of a pre-Columbian Xingu city

Post-contact history

Kuikuro oral history says European slavers arrived in the Xingu region around 1750. Population in the region was estimated in the tens of thousands but was dramatically reduced by diseases and slavery by Europeans.

In the centuries since the penetration of the Europeans into South America, the Xingu fled from different regions to escape modernization and cultural assimilation. Nonetheless settlers made it up as far as the upper run of the Rio Xingu. By the end of the 19th century, about 3,000 natives lived at the Alto Xingu, where their current political status has kept them protected against European intruders. By the mid twentieth century this number had been reduced by foreign epidemic diseases such as flu, measles, smallpox and malaria to less than 1,000.


Part Three will be focused on Anna Curtenius Roosevelt's fascinating explorations of pre-Columbian settlement throughout the Amazon. Anna is the the great-granddaughter of United States President Theodore Roosevelt and much of her work challenges the long assumed scientific theories about the lives and migrations of the first Americans.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Amazing Amazonia (Part 1)

Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America. This basin encompasses 2,700,000 square miles, 2,100,000 square miles of which are covered by the rainforest.

This region includes territory belonging to nine nations. The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in six other nations.

The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.
Amazon size comparison
Amazon Watershed

Terrain / Mountains


Sahara Desert dust 

More than 56% of the dust fertilizing the Amazon rainforest comes from the Sahara desert. The dust contains phosphorus, important for plant growth. The yearly Sahara dust replaces the equivalent amount of phosphorus washed away yearly in Amazon soil from rains and floods. Up to 50 million tons of Sahara dust per year are blown across the Atlantic Ocean.
Land Use
Where cocoa is cultivated
Population Density
Rocks - Geology

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest

The cattle business has been responsible for about 80% of all deforestation in the region, or about 14% of the world's total annual deforestation, making it the world's largest single driver of deforestation.

The annual rate of deforestation in the Amazon region dramatically increased from 1991 to 2003. In the nine years from 1991 to 2000, the total area of Amazon rainforest cleared since 1970 was comparable to the land area of Spain, Madagascar or Manitoba. Most of this lost forest was replaced by pasture for cattle.

Indigenous People

Part Two will be focused on the Indigenous People and their surprisingly sophisticated culture (their prior cities recently discovered and their successful large scale agriculture techniques)...
Indigenous Territories

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Lost City of Z

I just happened to pick up this book in the local library: “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession”. Its about the English colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, who dedicated years to explore and to map much of the uncharted Amazon is the far reaches of Bolivia and Brazil. Often considered one of the most extraordinary explorers of the 20th century, his adventures mirrored the modern day Indiana Jones and inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s bestseller “The Lost World” (1912). His eight and final expedition and his sensational disappearance made headlines around the world.
His trips were sponsored by the British Royal Geographical Society and his meticulous note keeping were instrumental in mapping much of the unknown parts of Western Amazonia.

Who was Percy Fawcett?

Percy Fawcett began his career as a map maker and explorer, cataloging the disputed border between Bolivia and Brazil. He made a name for himself by being unafraid to venture away from the rivers and move inland. He adopted a policy of peace with the native Indians and gradually grew to respect them immensely.
Percy Fawcett
Map of Percy Fawcett’s Expeditions: source

The book focuses on Fawcett’s expeditions in the lower Xingu, a southern tributary of the Amazon. Here Fawcett believed he would discover a great lost city which he named “Z”.

El Dorado - the mythical city of gold

For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it. In pursuit of the legend, Spanish conquistadors and numerous others for years searched Colombia, Venezuela, and parts of Guyana and northern Brazil for the city and its supposed fabulous king. In the course of these explorations, much of northern South America, including the Amazon River, was mapped. By the beginning of the 19th century most people dismissed the existence of the city as a myth.

While earlier expeditions across much of South and Central America were unsuccessful in locating this city of gold, Percy Fawcett was convinced he could. Getting an assignment from the Royal Geographical Society to map the remote still unknown regions of Amazonia in Bolivia and Brazil was a perfect opportunity to fulfill his dreams. In 1925, Fawcett, along with his son Jack and Jack's best friend Raleigh, disappeared into the jungle after declaring that they knew where the Lost City of Z was located.

In the next seven decades, scores of explorers had tried and failed to retrace Fawcett’s path. Some nearly died of starvation, while others retreated in the face of tribes that attacked with poisoned arrows. Then there were those adventurers who had gone to find Fawcett and, instead, disappeared along with him, swallowed by the same forests in the Mato Grosso region which travellers had long ago christened the “green hell.”

Fawcett's Expeditions - 1906 to 1914

See the Official Royal Geographical Society Map by Percy Fawcett (Copyrighted)

Click on Thumbnail Image to View 

 Map of The Final Expedition