Ancient rock paintings depict extinct ice age giants

(ORDO NEWS) — More than 12,000 years ago, South America was teeming with amazing Ice Age beasts – giant car-sized ground sloths, elephant-like herbivores, and elongated-snouted deer-like animals.

These extinct giants are one of many animals immortalized in a 13km-long rock art at Serrania de la Lindos in the Colombian Amazon rainforest, created by some of the earliest humans to have lived in the region, a new study says.

“The pictures show the diversity of the Amazon. Turtles and fish, jaguars, monkeys and porcupines,” said study author José Iriarte, professor of archeology at the University of Exeter in the UK.

Iriarte calls the frieze, most likely drawn over centuries, if not millennia, “the last voyage” because, he says, it represents the arrival of humans in South America – the last region to be colonized by Homo sapiens as they spread around the world from Africa, their places of origin. These pioneers from the north had to face unknown animals in an unfamiliar landscape.

“They came across these large mammals and drew them. These drawings are very naturalistic and we can see the morphological features of the animals,” he said.

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Iriarte is confident that they have found evidence of early human encounters with some of the vanished giants of the past.

In their work, the team identified five such animals: a giant ground sloth with massive claws, a gomphothere (an elephant-like creature with a domed head, splayed ears and a trunk), an extinct genus of thick-necked horses, a camel-like animal such as a camel or llama, and a three-toed ungulate. or hoofed mammal, with a trunk.

They are well known from fossilized skeletons, he says, allowing paleontologists to reconstruct what they looked like. Then Iriarte and his colleagues were able to identify their characteristic features in the paintings.

Although the red pigments used to create the rock paintings have not yet been directly dated, Iriarte said that ocher fragments found in sediment layers when excavating soil under the painted vertical rocks date back to 12,600 years ago.

It is hoped to directly date the red pigment that painted miles of rock, but dating rock paintings and cave paintings is notoriously difficult.

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Ochre, a carbon-free inorganic mineral pigment, cannot be dated using radiocarbon dating methods. Archaeologists hope the ancient artists mixed the ocher with some kind of binder that would allow them to get an accurate date. The results of this study are expected, possibly later this year.

Further study of the drawings may shed light on the reasons for the extinction of these giant animals. According to Iriarte, during the archaeological excavations in the immediate area, no bones of extinct creatures were found, which suggests that they were not a source of food for the people who created these drawings.

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