Timeline of Amazon history

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This is a timeline of Amazon history, which dates back at least 11,000 years ago, when humans left indications of their presence in Caverna da Pedra Pintada.[1][2]

Here is a brief timeline of historical events in the Amazon River valley.

Before current era[edit]

Current era[edit]

  • 1541–1542 – First descent of the Amazon by Francisco de Orellana (1501–1550) from Quito, Ecuador, via the Rio Napo to the Atlantic Ocean. He fights Indian women he calls "Amazons." The name sticks to the river. Expedition chronicled by friar Gaspar de Carvajal.
  • 1560–1561 – Second descent of the Amazon, this time by the conquistador Lope de Aguirre.
  • 1570–1600 – Jesuit missions are widely established in the Amazon. Indians relocated and "protected."
  • 1595 – Sir Walter Raleigh leads expedition to colonize the Orinoco River for the English. In 1616, he settles for Trinidad.
  • 1637–1639 – Pedro Teixeira leads the first European expedition up the Amazon from Belém to Quito, arriving unexpected.
  • 1750 – Treaty of Madrid fixes boundaries between the Spanish and Portuguese empires in South America. Portuguese possession of areas west of the Tordesillas line is recognized, based on occupation.
  • 1759 – Jesuits are expelled from Brazil by the Marquis of Pombal. Indians left without protection.
  • 1808–1825 – Spanish rule in South America ends with revolutions led by Simón Bolívar of Venezuela, San Martín of Argentina, and O'Higgins of Chile. In 1808 the Portuguese royal family arrives in Brazil escaping the Napoleon's invasion of Portugal.
  • 1818–1820 – Spix and Martius on expedition in the Amazon.
  • 1823 – Charles Macintosh invents waterproof rubber cape. (Amazon Indians, users of rubber waterproof bags for centuries, get no credit.)
  • 1826–1828 – Cabanagem revolt in Belém and Manaus, with 40,000 fatalities.
  • 1849–1864 – Spruce, of cinchona fame, in the Amazon. He gets the quinine tree seeds in 1860.
  • 1850–1915 – Rubber boom sucks tens of thousands of immigrants into the Amazon, mostly from the drought-stricken northeast of Brazil. Read the book White Gold to get the story from the rubber-tapper's point of view. Another good volume is Jungle by Ferreira de Castro.
  • 1851–1852 – Lieutenant Lardner Gibbon (U.S. Navy) also on the Amazon.
  • 1858 – Peru gains rights to navigation on the Amazon River.
  • 1867 – Amazon River opened to international shipping.
  • 1867 – Confederate expatriates settle in Santarém, after U.S. Civil War.
  • 1888 – Dunlop invents the rubber tube tire.
  • 1895 – International arbitration forces Venezuela to cede large area still disputed with Guyana.
  • 1897 – Manaus' Teatro Amazonas (opera house) opens. Rubber booming.
  • 1899–1903 – Acre proclaims itself independent of Bolivia. In 1901, Bolivia cedes rights to Acre to New York rubber syndicate. In 1903, Acre becomes Brazilian by the Treaty of Petrópolis, in which Bolivia is promised a railroad link to the Madeira River at Porto Velho.

20th century[edit]

  • 1907: Madeira-Mamoré Railroad is built by Americans under Percival Farquar. Colonel Church's attempts in 1870–1881 are best called disasters made heroic by tragedy.
  • 1908–1911: Henry Ford, then the richest person in the world, invests in Amazon rubber plantations on the Tapajós River.
  • 1908–1911: Arana's rubber company on the Putamayo River is denounced for atrocities against Indians. English parliamentary inquiry in 1910. (Arana dies in 1952 in Lima after serving as Peruvian senator.) (Read the book The River that God Forgot.)
  • 1912: Rubber from Malaysia exceeds that coming out of the Amazon.
  • 1913: Former US president Theodore Roosevelt and Brazilian Field Marshal Cândido Rondon on Amazon expedition down the River of Doubt (now the Roosevelt River) (Roosevelt, 1919).
  • 1914: Rubber boom bursts with beginning of World War I.
  • 1922: Salomón-Lozano Treaty awards Leticia to Colombia, as an outlet to the Amazon River. In 1933, Peru seizes Leticia but backs down under international pressure, and in 1935 Leticia is reoccupied by Colombia.
  • 1925: Colonel Percy Fawcett vanishes near the headwaters of the Xingu River. His eyeglasses are later found among the Kayapó Indians of the Xingu River valley.
  • 1942: Brazil enters World War II. Demand is high for Amazon rubber. Brazil launches the ill-fated "Rubber Soldiers" program.[1]
  • 1947: Cerro Bolívar, iron ore deposit south of Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, is found and estimated at half a billion tons of high-grade ore. Puerto Ordaz is selected in 1953 as site for steel mill and huge hydroelectric plant.
  • 1960: Brasilia, as new capital of Brazil, is founded.
  • 1962: Belém-Brasília Highway opens as first major all-year Amazon highway, linking Amazon River port city of Belém with the rest of Brazil.
  • 1964: Military coup in Brazil puts democracy on hold for a generation. Economic miracle declared.
  • 1967: Iron ore deposit at Serra dos Carajás is discovered in the eastern Brazilian Amazon. High quality ore (66% iron) is estimated at 18 billion tons.
  • 1967–1983: American businessman Daniel K. Ludwig invests heavily in Jari wood pulp and lumber plantation. His losses would amount to over 500 million dollars.
  • 1970: Trans-Amazonian Highway project begins. Total costs would top one billion dollars. To this day (2008), the highway is impassable between Itaituba and Humaitá, and it ends short of the Peruvian border.
  • 1972: Trans-Amazon highway opens from Imperatriz, Maranhão to the Tapajós River.
  • 1974: Manaus-Porto Velho highway opens.
  • 1980: Gold deposit at Serra Pelada is discovered. By 1986, an estimated 42 tons of gold are extracted from giant pit mine. Amazon gold rush is in full swing. In 1987 striking gold miners would be machine-gunned when they seize the railroad bridge at Marabá.
  • 1984: Tucuruí hydroelectric dam floods the lower Tocantins River valley.
  • 1988: New Brazilian federal constitution goes into effect, with many social and environmental guarantees.
  • 1988: First Amazon Indian congress is held at Altamira, Brazil, to protest the proposed construction of hydroelectric dams on the Xingu River.
  • 1988: Rubber-tapper Chico Mendes is murdered on December 22, in Xapuri, Acre. Two years later (December 1990), his accused killers, Darly Alves da Silva and his son Darci, are brought to trial and sentenced. (They escaped in 1993 and were later recaptured.)
  • 1992: Brazil hosts UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The US, under President Bush, is made to appear the enemy because of refusal to sign the Biodiversity Treaty. (The US would belatedly sign the same, weak treaty under President Clinton.)
  • 1996: Renewed military presence seen in the Amazon region of Brazil, as a result of radar project and militarization of the borders against drug traffic (at US behest?). Secret project SIVAM is revealed.
  • 1996: On April 17, 1996, 19 landless farmers of the MST movement ("Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra") are shot by police at the "S" curve of highway PA-150 at Eldorado de Carajás, in Pará state. These people were part of a demonstration calling for the federal disappropriation of an unproductive ranch where the MST had mounted a camp called "Macaxeira" with almost 3000 families.

21st century[edit]

  • 2005: On February 12, 2005, American missionary Dorothy Stang (73 years of age) is gunned down in Anapu, Pará.
  • 2005: Worst drought in 50 years hits the western Amazon Basin. Lakes and streams dry and massive fish mortality takes place. Turtle beaches are sacked by hungry residents.
  • 2007: The Brazilian government announces the Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento to construct dams on the Madeira, Xingú, and Tapajós rivers, to go ahead with the polemical highway BR-319, and to expand petroleum and natural gas extraction in the Solimões basin.
  • 2008: Second Amazon Indian congress is held at Altamira, Brazil, to again protest the newly proposed Belo Monte dams on the Xingú River.[7]
  • 2008: Former Minister of the Environment Marina Silva leaves her ministerial post and returns to the Senate, citing struggles with vested interests as an obstacle to conservation policy in Amazônia.
  • 2009: The World Social Forum takes place in Belém do Pará, Brazil, drawing attention to the ecological crises facing the Amazon.
  • 2010: Drought hits Amazon Rainforest.
  • 2013: Using data accumulated over 10 years, researchers estimate there are 390 billion trees in the Amazon rainforest, divided into 16,000 different species.[8]


  1. ^ a b Wilford, John Noble. Scientist at Work: Anna C. Roosevelt; Sharp and To the Point In Amazonia. New York Times. April 23, 1996
  2. ^ Roosevelt et al., 1996
  3. ^ "Dating a Paleoindian Site in the Amazon in Comparison with Clovis Culture." Science. March 1997: Vol. 275, no. 5308, pp. 194801952. (retrieved Nov 1, 2009)
  4. ^ Choi, Charles. "Call this ancient rock carving 'little horny man'." Science on MSNBC. Feb 22, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  5. ^ Saraceni, Jessica E. and Adriana Franco da Sá. "People of South America." Archaeology. Vol. 49, No. 4, July/August 1996. Retrieved April 9, 2012.
  6. ^ Silverman and Isbell, 365
  7. ^ http://internationalrivers.org/en/indigenous/em-defesa-da-vida-e-do-rio-xingu
  8. ^ "Field Museum scientists estimate 16,000 tree species in the Amazon". Field Museum. 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013. 


  • Papavero, N., Teixeira, D. M., Overal, W. L., & Pugol-Luz, J. R. (2000). O Novo Éden: a fauna da Amazônia brasileira nos relatos de viajantes e cronistas desde a Descobrimento do rio Amazonas por Pinzón (1500) até o Tratado de Santo Ildefonso (1777) . Belém: Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi.
  • Roosevelt, A. C., Lima da Costa, M., Lopes Machado, C., Michab, M., Mercier, N., Valladas, H., et al. (1996). Paleoindian cave dwellers in the Amazon: The peopling of the Americas. Science, 373–384.
  • Roosevelt, T. (1919). Through the Brazilian wilderness . New York: Charles Schribner's Sons.
  • Silverman, Helaine and William Isbell, eds. Handbook of South American Archaeology. New York: Springer Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-0-387-75228-0.

External links[edit]