Amazon reveals ancient carvings as the drought drops water levels
Previously hidden underwater, rock carvings up to 2000 years old have emerged as the Amazon River drops to the lowest level ever recorded as the drought affects 481,000 people in Brazil
READING LEVEL: ORANGE
The Amazon River has dropped to its lowest level in more than a century, revealing millennia-old Brazilian carvings previously hidden underwater.
The engravings are deeply etched into black rock along the riverbanks of the Rio Negro. Representing human faces, animals and other figures, they are thought to be 1000 to 2000 years old, archaeologists said.
“They allow us to understand the way of life of prehistoric populations,” said Jaime de Santana Oliveira, an archaeologist with Brazil’s National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute.
The scientists think other rocks at the site were used to sharpen arrows and stone tools.
The Ponto das Lajes archaeological site is located in the rural area of Manaus, the largest city and capital of Amazonas state, where the Amazon meets the Negro. Manaus recorded 13.59m of water earlier this month, compared to 17.60m a year ago. It was the lowest level since records began in 1902, more than 120 years ago.
The record drought affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and damages the jungle ecosystem.
Smaller river systems that feed into the Amazon River have been drying up, leaving boats stranded and people in remote villages with very little food and water.
The Brazilian government has blamed the drought on the El Nino climate pattern, which has brought hotter and drier weather.
It said the drought had affected 481,000 people so far.
The government said it expected the drought would last until at least December, when El Nino’s effects are forecast to peak.
Charity workers have delivered food and supplies to villages doing it tough.
The drought has made it hard to access food, drinking water and medicines, which are usually transported by river.
After months without rain, rainforest villager Pedro Mendonca was relieved when a Brazilian charity delivered supplies to his riverside community near Manaus.
“We have gone three months without rain here in our community,” said Mendonca. “It is much hotter than past droughts.”
Nelson Mendonca, a community leader in neighbouring village Santa Helena do Ingles, said some areas could still be reached by canoe, but many boats hadn’t been able to bring supplies along the river and a lot of supplies were being delivered by tractor or foot.
“It’s not very good for us, because we’re practically isolated,” he said.
Luciana Valentin, who also lives in Santa Helena do Ingles, said the drought had affected the cleanliness of the village’s drinking water.
“Our children are getting diarrhoea, vomiting, and often having fever because of the water,” she said.
El Nino has also affected the animals of the river. More than 100 endangered river dolphins are thought to have died because of high water temperatures.
The Amazon River and its surrounding rainforest plays an important role in the global fight against climate change.
Thought to be about 6,400 km long and travelling through six countries, the Amazon River contains about 20 per cent of the world’s fresh, flowing water.
The Amazon rainforest represents about half of the remaining rainforest left on Earth and is home to more than one million species, or a third of all known land plants, animals and insects. About 150-200 billion tonnes of carbon is stored in the Amazon rainforest, making it important for the health of the whole planet.
- ecosystem: the way different plants, animals and insects interact as part of an environment
- peak: the highest point of something
- isolated: alone and cut off from others
- cleanliness: how clean something is
- How low has the Amazon River dropped?
- What has caused this drop in water level?
- What health problems has the drop in water level caused among villagers?
- How many countries does the Amazon River wind through?
- Why is the health of the Amazon Rainforest important for the whole planet?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What caused it?
What does this story tell you about the role that the Amazon River plays for the communities that live around it? Create a diagram that answers this question.
Time: allow at least 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Geography
"The Amazon River is on the other side of the world, why should we care about it?"
What do you think about this question? Write convincing paragraphs using information in the story, your own knowledge and perhaps your research skills for information.
Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Geography
Summarise the article
A summary can be a really good way to grab the main idea plus some key points in the article as a highlight. Think of the summary like a little advertisement or extract you could use to encourage people to read the article in detail. You want to give them an overview of the article that includes the main idea (being able to tell the audience what the article is about in one sentence), plus a few of the key points of the information.
Remember to re-read your summary to check that it is clear, concise and makes sense to the audience who haven’t read the article yet. You need to make language choices that allow you to explain the information in only a few sentences.