Tens of thousands of preserved cave paintings were found spread on a giant rock in a historical discovery in Colombia’s Amazon rainforest.
Named the “Sistine Chapel of the Ancients,” the monumental discovery has changed the world of archeology.
The paintings are believed to be 12,500 old. They are fine in detail and include handprints and depictions of Ice Age megafauna like the mastodon, a relative of the mammoth, large ground sloths, and beautiful Ice Age horses.
The finding was made at Chiribiquete National Park in the south of Colombia last year but has been kept a secret because it was used as a film set for a documentary called Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon.
Archeologists might be in a hurry to spend as much time as they can to study the paintings before the news causes a major influx of tourists to the site, as well as potential looters and artifact hunters.
They believe the art could be the doing of Paleolithic hunters who crossed the Bering land bridge into the Americas from Siberia.
The discovery was made by a Colombian-British team and was headed by archeology professor Jose Iriarte from the Exeter University, who spoke about the incredible power of tens of thousands of paintings, some of which are so detailed one can see individual hairs on the animals’ tails.
“When you’re there, your emotions flow… We’re talking about several tens of thousands of paintings. It’s going to take generations to record them … Every turn you do, it’s a new wall of paintings,” professor Iriarte told The Guardian.
'Sistine Chapel of the ancients' rock art discovered in remote Amazon forest https://t.co/hQyUlVHgtd
— Guardian Science (@guardianscience) November 29, 2020
To make things even more mysterious, the paintings actually cover almost every inch even way up the cliff where they were only seen properly when the archeologist flew up the camera drones.
“I’m 5ft 10in and I would be breaking my neck looking up. How were they scaling those walls?” said Ella Al-Shamahi, a Paleo-archaeologist who will present the Jungle Mystery film.
Tens of thousands of ice-age paintings have been discovered in a remote area of the Amazon. Archaeologists are dubbing it the "Sistine Chapel of the ancients" https://t.co/9YfRRR84Fj pic.twitter.com/8rsl1olRNw
— Meredith Frost (@MeredithFrost) December 5, 2020
In addition to all kinds of animals, masked figures of dancing people are also part of the paintings.
Trees and hallucination-inducing plants can also be seen, which was no surprise to Iriarte who said:
“For Amazonian people, non-humans like animals and plants have souls, and they communicate and engage with people in cooperative or hostile ways through the rituals and shamanic practices that we see depicted in the rock art.”
The area of Chiribiquete was previously controlled by FARC, an anti-government paramilitary organization.
They recently signed a truce with Bogota, which could be why it has taken a long time to discover the paintings.
As reported by the Guardian, Al-Shamahi said that
“when we entered FARC territory, it was exactly as a few of us have been screaming about for a long time. Exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over but the big discoveries now are going to be found in places that are disputed or hostile.”
The archeologists will return to search the surroundings for more interesting findings as soon as the pandemic situation permits it.
See AFP’s report on the story by clicking below.
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