What Is the Puzzle of Pacoval?

Marajo is a large island at the mouth of the Amazon River. Scientists have been puzzled by a group of 60 man-made hills at one site on the island, called Pacoval.

These hills were constructed so that their tops would be above water during periods of flood or very high tide. Some of the hills served as cemeteries, and others contained a village at their summit.

Pottery found at Pacoval has been dated to around 1300. This pottery is very similar to that used by people of the Andes Mountains, some 2,000 miles away. But when the first Portuguese explorers reached Marajo in 1450, the island was inhabited only by primitive Indians.

Most likely, the hills at Pacoval were built by people who traveled there from the Andes. Why would people with an advanced culture choose to settle in this hot, unhealthful region? No one knows. Why did these people leave before 1450?

That, too, is a puzzle. And where did they go when they left? It’s thought that these Andean settlers may have journeyed to some of the islands in the Caribbean after leaving Marajo, but exactly where they settled is unknown.