Anyone who looks behind the miasma of official history will hear a lot about the lost wisdom of the ancients; I’ve written about the subject myself. Words like “Eldorado”, “crystal skulls”, “Atlantis” “megalithic yard” and “riddle of the Sphinx” are virtually mainstream today. But the most incredible feat of technology and wisdom of the Ancients ever discovered may be something very mundane at first glace and you’ve probably never heard its name before: Terra Preta, “dark soil” in Portuguese, doesn’t sound as exciting as many of the other romantic legends associated with prehistoric civilizations, but it is actually one of the most incredible and exciting pieces of ancient wisdom ever recovered. It could save literally billions of lives and heal the global environmental disaster we're trapped in.
The Amazon basin is home to the biggest forest on Earth, covering millions of square miles. It contains species of animals and plants never discovered and people live there who have had no contact at all with the outside world (See here: ( http://hpanwo.blogspot.com/2007/10/real-erkdwala.html .) But tragically, like many other natural environments on the planet, the jungle is being destroyed. An acre a minute vanishes forever under the feet of lumberjacks, mining prospectors and farmers. Already 20% of it is gone and at the current rate of decimation there will none of it left by the end of the century. The habitat for millions of unique species will be gone and the lands and lifestyle of unique human cultures will be lost. The causes of the destruction are the usual: human greed and stupidity. The trees are being felled for timber and the land cleared for farming. There are laws against harvesting the trees, but they are ignored by the forest industries and not enforced by the police. The Amazon timber industry is one problem, not one this article can address; but there’s another, the farming, which it can. The farmers use the “slash-and-burn” method of land management. This is because the soil is very barren and, deprived of its tree cover it quickly becomes even poorer; good for only a single season’s crops. Eventually the rain washes it away and leaves behind a wasteland. The farmer then has no choice but to move his farm on to another location, clear the trees and begin again! But maybe there’s a solution.
Terra Preta is one of the most remarkable substances ever discovered. It is a soil found in the Amazon jungle with amazing properties. It is extremely fertile and it grows and reproduces like a living organism. Unfortunately it only accounts about 10% of the Amazon’s topsoil, located in small areas. The rest is all the poor quality soil I mentioned above. Until recently its origins were a mystery, but new studies have shown that it is man-made. It can be found in areas where ancient Indian villages used to be located. The explorer Francisco de Oriana, who was the first Westerner to traverse the River Amazon, spoke of huge riverbank towns stretching hundreds of miles. The river used to support a human population of millions without the exploitation and destruction it suffers today. The people there had some secret that allowed them to live in harmony with their environment. This secret has turned out to be Terra Preta. Nobody knows how the Indians made Terra Preta, but scientists think it was created by adding special compost and charcoal to ordinary soil. Once the soil was made it spread and grew by itself. When it had been planted for a couple of seasons, the farmer simply left his field fallow for a few years and the Terra Preta grew back! Today it is highly prized by gardeners in Brazil and anyone lucky enough to have Terra Preta on their land can make a fortune by “mining” it and selling it to people. What’s more unlike other kinds of mines, this one will never be depleted. You dig it up and it returns to be dug up again.
Sadly Oriana’s expedition led to the demise of the riverbank civilization at the same time he discovered it. The Westerners carried bacteria and viruses to which the locals had no immunity and most of them fell ill and died. The secret of Terra Preta died with them, but maybe it can be rediscovered by modern science. Horizon recently did a fascinating TV show about Terra Preta. I know I slag Horizon off a lot on HPANWO, but credit where credit’s due; this one was a masterpiece. The programme was entitled The Secret of Eldorado in reference to the myth about a fabulously wealthy city-state in the jungle that the Spanish Conquistadors sought to pillage. It was rumoured to be ruled by the king Don del Ora, “the Golden Man”, because he covered his skin with gold dust every morning and washed it off at night. The programme used to be on Google Video, but it’s been taken down. Nevertheless, here’s the next best thing: a transcript: http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2002/eldoradotrans.shtml . If we discover a simple, easy way to make Terra Preta then it will mean that the slash-and-burn farming methods can be turned into a far more favourable and sustainable agriculture, so slowing the destruction of the rainforest. But that could be just the start! Terra Preta could solve all the problems of Third World starvation and the “population bomb”. A farm with Terra Preta soil in its fields could vastly increase its yield. Alternatively it could keep its current yield and reduce its size, thus leaving more land for natural wilderness.
The moral of the story is never to underestimate people because they appear to be “primitive savages” in Western eyes. The Amazon Indians may not have had DVD players, mobile phones and laptops, but they achieved feats that we cannot. What’s more they clearly strove hard and dedicatedly cogitated to find a way of life that respected and cooperated with nature, something that most humans are not even attempting to do! They were not only more technologically advanced in some areas, they were wiser than us. Terra Preta shows how much they can teach us. I wonder what other secrets they have yet to divulge!