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THE LAKE ROJA AGUADO EXPEDITION
20 July to 3 September 2009
Led by Colonel John Blashford-Snell
|For some 2000 years a race of 500,000 people existed in the lowlands of Central South America. The area is subjected to annual floods, when the waters pour down from the Andes. Even today this is a major problem for the inhabitants of Bolivia’s Beni region. However the Moxos and other tribes overcame the inundations, building their|
settlements on hand raised mounds and cultivating crops on elevated fields, surrounded by an extensive system of irrigation canals. Causeways connected the mounds. But around 1100 AD the raised fields were abandoned and the people disappeared.
Archaeologists and anthropologists are unsure why this happened. It could have been caused by climate change, the cultural impact of the arrival of the Spanish or perhaps disease. Indeed a “Bleeding Fever” thought to be carried by rats broke out in the region in 1965. The fever eventually died out, possibly helped by the introduction of hundreds of cats who eat the rats. However the disappearance of the early people is still a mystery.
Now Sergeotecmin, the Bolivian Geological Institute with whom SES has worked since 2005, believe that this civilization could have been destroyed by the impact of a huge meteorite.
A study of the configuration of Lake Roja Aguado and nearby lakes and rivers has suggested this possibility. If so there may be valuable minerals in the area and useful information on climate change could be obtained.
John Blashford-Snell has been asked to form an expedition to investigate the theory and study the geology and archaeology of the savannah, swamp and jungle around Lake Roja Aguado. SES has approved the project and a recce was undertaken by John, geologist Nilo Theron of Sergeotecmin and Yolima Cipagauta in February. Using a light aircraft they reached Coquinal, a remote village of 50 families on the shore of the great lake and learned much about the picturesque area. There are twelve communities, mainly of indigenous people, all desperately poor and in need of medical and dental help, support for their schools and clean drinking water.
The Beni people are musical and especially keen on the violin, which was introduced by Jesuit missionaries and are now made here.
Wildlife includes dolphin (cut off from the ocean), water birds, jaguar, anaconda, tapir, caiman and a strange little “Golden Bear”. The recce party also saw large quantities of ceramic artefacts and fossil bones.
In the wet season overland movement is extremely difficult and the team saw an evacuation in progress as flood waters rose. They also had an air view of vast numbers of ancient raised fields.
In the hot dry season, July-September, 4WD vehicles and horses can cover much of the ground. Boats can be used on the lakes at all times.
The local government have welcomed the project and offered assistance. Thus from 20 July to 3 September 2009 a team of approximately a dozen from outside Bolivia is being recruited to work with local geologists and archaeologists in this little known part of Amazonas and provide aid for the people. The project will last 45 days.
The expedition is now full with a reserve list.
Progress reports from the field will appear here from the end of July 2009.