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For centuries, historians and scholars believed the Amazon was a pristine and untouched forest, a wild jungle that no man could tame. But that narrative is slowly changing thanks, in part, to archeologists.

A steadily accumulating body of research now shows that millions of people once lived in the Amazon, and they didn’t just make a home in the forest, but actually transformed it to suit their daily needs. Archeologists have found evidence of carefully tended gardens and fertile soils near sites of ancient settlements. Walk around the jungle today, and you can still see the fingerprints of these civilizations all around.

These ancient civilizations thrived without destroying the environment, and archeologists say this discovery could provide valuable lessons in how to help save the Amazon today, for now more than ever, the rainforest is in a precarious position.

Nearly 60% of the forest is tucked inside Brazil, and the country’s new president Jair Bolsonaro has been vocal about lifting protections. In a major step at the start of his presidency, he issued an executive order that transfers the regulation and certification of new indigenous lands as protected areas to the ministry of agriculture. The department is known for championing the interests of industries that would speed up deforestation.

Hannah YiAuthor:

Hannah YI is a writer, Producer, Photographer and a video journalist based in Hong Kong supervising the production of the Wall Street Journal while managing the APAC video team. Since graduating from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Hannah has worked on various projects; producing PBS NewsHour Weekend. Her responsibilities include producing, shooting and editing for the show. Previously she was a Producer for the national PBS news magazine show Need to Know. She also worked for Quartz, the ABC News Longform Documentary Unit and on the CNN show Anderson Cooper 360°.

Check Hannah out on Youtube, her website, Instagram @hannahgyi, Twitter @hannahyi, or drop her a line at hannahyi@gmail.com.

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