According to recent reports, 9,000 fires are burning in the Amazon rainforest. Many people have described the fires as a crisis and believe the area may soon be destroyed. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has responded to this crisis by sending military forces to combat the fires.
An Old Problem
While the fires are a problem, this is not the first time the rainforest has faced this kind of situation. The current amount is actually not much higher than the average. In 2005 there were a similar number of fires in the Brazilian rainforest.
Most people think the tropical rainforests are ancient, maybe millions of years old. In fact, the Amazon may not be that old. Fires and deforestation have uncovered signs of human life that were hidden by plants.
This evidence shows that only a few thousand years ago, humans lived in the area. This surprising fact may explain why so many of the plants found in the jungle are species found in gardening and farming. At one time, the Amazon may have been a giant garden.
Recently, scientists have used a type of laser technology (LiDAR) to “see” beneath the rainforest in Guatemala. Using this process, they have uncovered large, ancient Mayan cities. A similar LiDAR study has not yet been done in the Amazon, but a team of scientists found that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people lived in an area covering only 7% of the Amazon basin. That means the region could have been home to millions of people in the past. Archaeologist José Iriarte, said that “we need to re-evaluate the history of the Amazon.”