Hailed as “the Sistine Chapel of the ancients,” archaeologists and researchers from the United Kingdom and Colombia have discovered tens of thousands of prehistoric paintings of animals and humans on cliffs of the Serranía de Chiribiquete National Natural Park that stretch nearly 13 kilometers in the Colombian Amazon.
The antiquity of some of these works dates back as far back as 12,500 years, supported by the depiction of now-extinct Ice Age animals (such as mastodons, palaeolamas, giant sloths, Ice age horses, and human prints).
These animals were seen and painted by some of the first humans to reach the Amazon.
These prehistoric paintings give a glimpse of an ancient lost civilization and it is being believed that it will take generations to study them.
“The find is so recent that they haven’t even given the site a name yet.”Ella Al-Shamahi, an archaeologist and explorer
“When you are there, your emotions flow. We are talking about several tens of thousands of paintings. It will take generations to register them all. Every turn you make is a new wall of paintings.”José Iriarte, professor of archeology at the University of Exeter and leader of the British-Colombian team that found the wall.
Presence of extinct animals in the prehistoric paintaings
The prehistoric paintings discovered in the amazon depict extinct Ice Age animals such as the mastodon, a prehistoric relative of the elephant that has not been seen in South America for at least 12,000 years.
The images of the paleolama are also present who is an extinct member of the camel family.
Numerous other animals are also painted on the walls such as the giant sloths, Ice Age horses, and human handprints.
The prehistoric paintings also include fish, turtles, lizards and birds, as well as people dancing and holding hands, among other scenes, and even a figure is depicted wearing a mask that resembles a bird with a beak.
“We started to see animals that are now extinct. The images are so natural and well done that we have little doubt that you are looking at a horse, for example. The Ice Age horse had a wild and un-stylized face. It is so detailed that we can even see horsehair. It is fascinating”.
Extraordinary height of the paintings
The site is so remote that, after a two-hour drive from San José del Guaviare, a team of archaeologists and filmmakers walked for about four hours.
“Alligators are everywhere, and we were on the lookout for snakes,” Al-Shamahi said, recalling a huge bushmaster (chochoana mute rattlesnake, the deadliest snake in America with an 80% mortality rate) that blocked his path. in the jungle.
The paintings on the walls vary in size.
There are numerous handprints and many of the images are on that scale, be they geometric, animal or human shapes are much larger.
The variation in size has baffled the researchers.
“I am 1.55 meters tall and it would make my neck hurt a lot to look up so much. How did they climb those walls? Some of the paintings are so tall that they can only be seen with drones.Al-Shamahi
Iriarte believes the answer lies in the representations of wooden towers among the paintings, including figures that appear to bungee jump from them.
“These paintings have a reddish terracotta color. We also found pieces of ocher that they scraped to make them, ”said the expert.
Speculating on whether the paintings had a sacred or for any other purpose, he said: “It is interesting to see that many of these large animals appear surrounded by small men with their arms raised, almost worshiping these animals.”
“For the Amazonian people, non-humans, like animals and plants, have souls and communicate and relate to people in a cooperative or hostile way through the rituals and shamanic practices that we see represented in rock art.”
“One of the most fascinating things was seeing the megafauna from the ice age because it is an indicator of time. I don’t think people realize that Amazon has changed in appearance. It has not always been this rainforest. When you look at a horse or a mastodon in these paintings, of course, they were not going to live in a jungle. They’re too big. Not only are they giving clues as to when they were painted by some of the first people, that in itself is simply mind-blowing, but they are also giving clues as to what this very place could have looked like: more like the savannah.“Al-Shamahi
Who created these prehistoric paintings?
The majority of the native Amazon tribes are descendants of the first wave of Siberian migrants believed to have crossed the Bering land bridge 17,000 years ago, archaeologists explained.
During the Ice Age, the land bridge remained relatively intact as the snowfall was minimal.
The land bridge stretched for hundreds of kilometers to the continents on both sides, thus providing a way for people to cross to different areas.
However, it is unknown that which tribe created these paintings and have indicated that it may have been an ancient lost civilization, it should be remembered that this is home to two main indigenous tribes believed to have existed for thousands of years, the Yanomami. and the Kayapó.
The Yanomami, who live between the borders of Brazil and Venezuela, were first seen in 1759 when a Spanish explorer encountered a chief of another tribe who mentioned them.
However, not much is known about the origin of the Kayapó tribe, which is estimated to have a population of approximately 8,600 people.
“The exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over, but great discoveries will now be found in disputed or hostile places.”Al-Shamahi
So far, approximately 75,000 paintings have been discovered yet.
According to the BBC, the researchers aim to protect not only the archaeological treasure of the place but also its ecological factors.
The researchers are against opening the place to tourism, trying to avoid vandalism and the alteration of the conditions in the area.