Thirty kilometres east of Santarém, more easily accessible by river than by road, is a nineteenth-century sugar plantation called Taperinha. In an excavation there in 1991, American archeologist Anna Roosevelt unearthed decorated pottery almost 10,000 years old – twice as old as the oldest ceramics found anywhere in the Americas. This suggests the Amazon basin was settled before the Andes, and that the Americas had been settled much earlier than previously thought. Later excavations in Monte Alegre confirmed the middle Amazon played an important role in the prehistory of the Americas with cave and rock paintings dotting the surrounding hills also being dated at around 10,000 years old. About two thousand years ago, Indian culture in the region entered a particularly dynamic phase, producing some superbly decorated ceramics comparable in their sophistication with Andean pottery; there are beautiful pieces in the small museum in Santarém, and even more in the Museu Goeldi in Belém.

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