Alceu Ranzi was comfortably seated in his private airplane. He was gliding at an altitude of a few thousand feet above his farm in Acre. It was the summer of 1977. Ranzi was a student of Geography. At the time, he was helping to conduct the first ever full archaeological survey of the Amazon Forest, which was being cut down to provide pasture lands for cattle ranches at a speed that was causing worldwide protests. It seemed odd to Ranzi that a place as passive as his hometown in Acre was being cast into the limelight on an international stage. It was just after that thought had crossed his mind when he made the extraordinary sighting.
At the first sighting, it didn’t give the look or the feel of something even half as important as what it actually was. Just a circle and a slant. But as Ranzi looked deeper, he noticed the perfectly cut diamond shape and a perfectly circular circle just above that. It seemed odd to him that the land could be cut into such perfect shapes naturally, without human intervention. The possibility of human intervention was of course very minimal since the piece of land in question was one that had been uninhabited for all time known to man. A discovery was made – Geoglyphs.
It took another decade for the world to take Ranzi’s discovery seriously. The Smithsonian-sponsored National Program of Archaeological Research in the Amazon Basin did not formally announce the rings for 11 years. But when they got into the swing of things, they figured out that the geoglyphs were not just a feature of Ranzi’s farm alone. The peculiar shapes, circles, interlocking rectangles and diamonds went on and on for miles. And no, there was no way something like that could have been created by nature.
Scientists believe the geoglyphs to be important evidence in the study of the history of the Amazon Forests. The information it provides gives them a fair amount of insight into the lives of the tribal people who lived in the Amazon, before Columbus went there. As such, the land of the Amazon Forest which was once believed to be uninhabitable is clearly not so now.
Today, Ranzi co-leads a research team with Martti Pärssinen and Denise Schaan. More than 150 geoglyphs have been identified in Acre and the adjoining states of Amazonas and Rondônia - a figure, Pärssinen believes, that represents less than 10% of the total all over the world.
Whether these men can prove the habitation of tribal people is a question that even they cannot answer. But geoglyphs are certainly intriguing enough to gather the attention of a common man.