Coordinates: 1 0 S 49 30 W
Area: 15,500 sq. mi. (40,145 sq. km)
Leave it to the start of a new year to remind us that beginnings and endings often have a way of blurring together. Such is also the case with the Amazon and Marajó Island in northeastern Brazil. When it reaches its terminus in the state of Pará, the powerful river that drains approximately two-fifths of South America is carrying a significant amount of sediment it has picked up along a course that stretches more than four thousand miles.
And here at the mouth of that waterway, almost directly on the Equator, is where much of that soil is deposited, forming the largest fluvial island in the world. Shaped by the force of the Amazon’s current and the Atlantic Ocean’s ceaseless tides, Marajó happens to have quite a lengthy history of human habitation for a place that is constantly being remade. Ceramic pottery excavated from mounds scattered across its virginal grasslands, forests, and dense swamps date back well over 1,000 years.
Ben Keene is the editor of Oxford Atlas of the World. Check out some of his previous places of the week.