Scientific Pilgrimage Sites in South America

South America is a continent of natural wonders, from the Andes to the Amazon. It's also a continent of scientific wonder, with many sites that have played an important role in the development of scientific knowledge.


Here's a look at some of those sites.


The Galapagos Islands


The Galapagos Islands are located off the coast of Ecuador, and they're home to some of the world's most fascinating wildlife. Charles Darwin spent five weeks on these islands in 1835 and 1836, and his experiences there helped him develop his theory of evolution. He also came up with the idea for his book "The Voyage of the Beagle" while on these islands. The book was published in 1839 and helped establish Darwin as one of the world's most important scientists [source: BBC].





Darwin's theory was based on his observations that there were similarities between animals on different islands in the Galapagos chain, but there were also differences between them. For instance, tortoises from different islands had similar shapes but different sizes and colors [source: BBC]. This led Darwin to conclude that animals had evolved over time from one species into another species. He also observed that some plants and animals had unique characteristics that made them better suited for life in their particular environments than other animals or plants found elsewhere [source: BBC].


Darwin's theories have been controversial over the years, but they've become widely accepted by scientists today. In fact, many people who visit the Galapagos Islands do so because they want to see firsthand how Darwin's ideas play out among its unique wildlife


The Andes Mountains


The Andes Mountains are located along South America's western coast and are home to some amazing geological formations -- including mountains with glaciers on their peaks year-round. The mountains are also home to several important archaeological sites.


For example, Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Incan city built high above sea level. It was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911; he was searching for an ancient Incan city called Vilcabamba that he'd heard about from locals but didn't find [source: UNESCO]. Machu Picchu is now one of South America's most popular tourist destinations because it offers visitors a glimpse into what life was like for Incan royalty during its heyday [source: UNESCO].





Another important archaeological site near the Andes is Tiwanaku, which dates back more than 2,000 years [source: UNESCO]. The site includes stone monoliths carved with geometric patterns as well as temples and other structures built by Tiwanaku residents who lived there between A.D. 400 and 1000 [source: UNESCO]. The site has been extensively studied by archaeologists because it offers valuable insight into how people lived during those centuries -- including their religious beliefs -- as well as how they interacted with other cultures throughout South America during this time period.


Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is located along South America's western border with Bolivia; it straddles both countries' borders and is considered one of South America's most important lakes because it provides water for more than 3 million people who live nearby. Lake Titicaca is also considered sacred by many indigenous groups who live in the area.







For example, the Aymara people believe that Lake Titicaca is home to a god named Kon Tiki who created humans and animals on the earth [source: UNESCO]. The lake is also home to several important archaeological sites like the ruins of Tiwanaku.


The Amazon Rainforest


The Amazon Rainforest is one of the world's largest rainforests, covering a large swath of South America that includes parts of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The rainforest is home to more than 1 million plant species -- including some that are found nowhere else in the world -- as well as thousands of animal species [source: UNESCO]. It's also home to several important archaeological sites.




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