Prehistoric drawings from the Amazon show extinct giants

(ORDO NEWS) — More than 12,000 years ago, South America was home to Ice Age animals, including car-sized sloths and proboscis equids.

Two years ago, in the Colombian part of the Amazon, archaeologists made an incredible find – a series of prehistoric drawings on a rock mass.

The drawings stretch for 12 kilometers, mostly in ocher, and are geometric patterns, handprints and images of animals, as well as hunting scenes.

This place is called Serrania de la Lindos, it is located in an extremely inaccessible part of the largest national park in Colombia, Chiribikete.

A group of scientists led by José Iriarte from the University of Exeter (UK) studied these drawings, which today remain one of the largest rock paintings.

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As mentioned above, many of the drawings in Serrania de la Lindos depict hunting and ritual scenes showing the interaction of man with the surrounding reality.

The authors of the work claim that the rock paintings represent the whole variety of animals of the Amazon: from turtles and fish to jaguars, monkeys and porcupines.

Among this diversity, there are several intriguing images. Scientists compared the drawings from Serrania de la Lindos with the alleged appearances of megafauna (reconstructions of extinct animals made by paleontologists). It turned out that some of the images bear a resemblance to extinct representatives of the megafauna.

In other words, the researchers suggest that ancient people painted a giant sloth, gomphotherium , which some scientists believe is the ancestor of elephants, camelids, horses and equids with trunks .

According to scientists, people created the whole complex of drawings over several centuries – and most likely, they were the first to come to those places.

In general, the history of the distribution of the species Homo sapiens in the New World is still rather poorly studied, there are many dark places in it. Some discoveries are simply ignored by the scientific community.

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And this is very difficult. The fact is that ocher is an inorganic mineral pigment that does not contain carbon. Accordingly, it cannot be dated using radiocarbon methods.

Nevertheless, some fragments of ocher were found in layers of sediments under painted vertical rock surfaces – and these layers have been dated at 12,600 years old.

Now work is underway to date the red pigment used to paint the rock. Archaeologists are hoping that ancient artists mixed the ocher with some kind of binder that would allow the exact date to be determined. The results of this study are expected at the end of 2022.

“They [humans] came across these large-bodied mammals and probably sketched them. <…> The drawings are very naturalistic, and we can see the morphological features of the animals,” the work says.

Further study of the drawings may shed light on the reasons for the extinction of these giant animals. According to Iriarte, during archaeological excavations in the immediate vicinity, no bones of extinct creatures were found: that is, it can be assumed that they were not a source of food for the people who created the paintings.

It must be said that the interpretation of the drawings from Serrania de la Lindos as an image of megafauna by direct eyewitnesses is controversial and ambiguous.

Some archaeologists believe that the exceptional preservation of the drawings indicates a later origin and that there are other likely candidates for the depicted creatures.

For example, the giant ground sloth identified by Iriarte and colleagues may actually be a capybara, a giant rodent that is common in the region today.

Thus, the opinions of scientists on the nature and chronology of the rock paintings of Serrania de la Lindos differ, and only additional research will be able to determine which animals the ancient representatives of our species actually encountered in South America.

Let’s add that, unlike the European artists of the Upper Paleolithic, who preferred to paint in deep dark caves, the early inhabitants of the Amazon did it on open rocks.

As a result, the preservation of the paintings leaves much to be desired: under the influence of the elements, the images fade or are washed away, which complicates their study and interpretation.


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