Amazon Rock Art Shows Rainforest’s Most Inhabitants With Giant Ice Age Animals

Last year, the team unearthed historical artifacts called the Sistine Chapel of the Ancients on the cliffs in Chiribiquete National Park, Colombia. Credit: Wild Blue Media

Newly discovered Amazonian rock art by researchers provides further evidence that the earliest inhabitants of rainforests now coexisted with endangered giant Ice Age animals.

Thousands of images are among the oldest depictions of humans interacting with giant creatures, including mastodons. Generally, the only clues about their appearance are skeletal remains.

It is one of the largest rock art collections found in South America. The first recorded paintings, probably 12,600 and 11,800 years ago, are in three rock shelters in the hills of the Colombian Amazon. The paintings identified during the landscape studies also depict geometric shapes, human figures and handprints, hunting scenes and people interacting with plants, trees and savannah animals. Lively red images have been produced for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Some were so high and inaccessible, special stairs made of forest resources would be needed and would be hidden from the eyes of anyone who came to the rock shelter.

Professor José Iriarte

Professor José Iriarte. Credit: University of Exeter

There are pictures of deer, tapirs, crocodiles, bats, monkeys, turtles, snakes and hedgehogs, and what looks like an ice age megafauna. These extinct animals are now depicted in rock art in Central Brazil, but experts believe these paintings are more realistic. There are images of creatures resembling giant laziness, mastodons, camels, horses, and three-fingered claws with trunks. All of these native animals have probably become extinct due to climate change, loss of habitat and hunting by humans.

Excavations in the deep soil around the shelters have uncovered one of the most reliable dates for the invasion of the Amazon of Colombia, as well as tips on human diets during this period, as well as the remains of small tools used to extract pigments and shaved ocher. make drawings.

At the time of the painting, the communities in the area were gathering fishermen fishing in a nearby river. The bones and plant remains found during the excavations indicate that rodents and armadillos ate dates and tree fruits, such as piranhas, crocodiles, snakes, frogs, pachas and capybaras.

Columbian Amazon Rock Art

Credit: Professor José Iriarte

The discovery was made by LASTJOURNEY researchers at the ERC project, which focuses on the human settlement in the Amazon and the impact of agriculture and hunting on the region’s biodiversity. In the new Channel 4 (UK) series, Jungle Mystery: The Lost Kingdom of the Amazon. The findings are also reflected in an article in the journal Fourth International.

On the northern edge of the Colombian Amazon, images of Serranía La Lindosa’s specially crafted rock walls are further evidence of the impact of early human communities on the Amazon’s biodiversity and adaptation to climate change. As the paintings are taken, the temperature rises and the area begins to transform from a mosaic of tropical forests with patchy savannas, thorny shrubs, gallery forests and mountain elements into today’s broad-leaved tropical Amazon forest.

Rock Art Columbian Amazon

Credit: Marie-Claire Thomas / Wild Blue Media

Rock shelters are far from modern settlements and roads, but were known by some local communities who helped researchers explore these places.

The study became possible after a peace agreement was signed in 2016 between the FARC and the Government of Colombia.

The study was conducted by Francisco Javier Aceituno of Columbia University, Gaspar Morcote-Ríos of the University of Antioquia, José Iriarte and Mark Robinson of the University of Exeter, and Universidad Nacional de Jeison L. Chaparro-Cárdenas. Colombia.

Dr. Robinson said: “These are truly incredible images created by the earliest humans to live in the Western Amazon. They moved to the region during periods of extreme climate change, which led to changes in vegetation and forest management. The Amazon was still becoming the tropical forest we know today.

“Paintings give a lively and exciting look at the lives of these communities. It is incredible for us today to think that some of them lived and hunted among giant grass-eaters the size of a small car. ”

The rock shelters are exposed to elements, meaning other paintings found by Amazon experts have been damaged and the images are unclear. Communities have been stripped or peeled off the rock using fire to create smooth surfaces for their art.

These new discoveries are in shelters that are more protected by hanging rocks or by wind and rain blowing in different directions.

Professor Iriarte said: “These rock paintings are great evidence of how people rebuilt, hunted, cultivated and fished the area. Most likely, art was a strong part of culture and a way to build social ties between people. The pictures show how people will live among the giant animals that have been hunted and are now extinct. ”

Specialists conducted the excavations in 2017 and 2018. The largest collection of paintings, a total of 12 panels and a total of 12 panels depicting people, animals, plants, handprints and geometric shapes, and thousands of individual pictograms were found there. The paintings by Cerro Montoya and Limoncillos were more pale.

The discovery is part of a new series on Amazon, coming to Channel 4 in the UK in the first week of December – Jungle Mystery: The Lost Kingdom of the Amazon. Ella Al Shamahi’s series explores lost cultures and previously unseen hidden ancient settlements and things you haven’t seen in rock art.

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