free trial issue subscribe back issues
This SIR-C radar image provided by NASA/JPL shows the confluence of two main Amazonian tributaries at Manaus, Brazil. The image was taken from space shuttle Endeavour near the end of the rainy season on April 12, 1994. It reveals a flooded riverine area of about 8 by 40 kms (5 by 25 miles), centered at 3 degrees S latitude and 61 degrees W longitude. North is toward the top left.
Here two large rivers, the Rio Negro (at top) and the Rio Solimoes (at bottom), converge to form the main branch of the Amazon River at Manaus. This major Brazilian commercial port, named for a local Arawak-speaking tribe, is located just left (west) of this view. The Rio Negro was for thousands of years a habitat and trade route for Amazonian village cultures. The name Rio Negro stems from its dark, mud-laden waters, which dramatically meet the lighter colored, blue-green waters of the Amazon, as described by Friar Carvajal during Orellana's 1542 voyage downriver.
Green areas in the image are heavily forested, while blue areas are either cleared forest or open water. The yellow and red areas are flooded forest or floating meadows. The extent of the flooding follows an average 10-meter (33-foot) annual rise and fall of the Amazon River.
NASA scientists point out that such flooded forest provides a basic source of atmospheric methane. It is also a vital habitat for fish, a major food resource for thousands of years of human settlements along the Amazon, the largest river on earth, and the focus for some of the earliest human occupations in the New World, beginning in the PaleoIndian period at the end of the last glacial era. PaleoIndian rock shelters have recently been discovered at Pedra Pintada, downriver from Manaus.
[Fig.1: Rio Negro near Manaus (NASA/JPL image P-44716).]
Athena Review Image Archive | Paleoanthropology in the News | Guide to Archaeology on the Internet | Free issue | Back issues
Main index of Athena
Copyright © 1996-2001 Athena Publications, Inc. (All Rights Reserved).