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November 2, 2012

Originally posted on Research & Collections:

by Brian O’Shea

For our final day in the field, we took a walk by the Tibiti River. Although there are no villages in this area now, and the roads through here are only a few years old, people have inhabited these forests for millenia. Here is a signpost from the past:

Balata tree

Just a tree trunk? Look again! This is an old balata tree, and the crisscrossed lines are old hatch marks made long ago by people harvesting the latex, which is similar to rubber. Anywhere you go in the Guiana Shield, no matter how far from a river, road, or village, you find these marked balata trees.

Getting to the river, we ran across another blast from the past, this time right under our feet:

Sharpening stone

These distinctive ruts mark a place where people once sharpened knives and tools. Rivers are the highways of the Guianas, and it’s not uncommon…

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