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How an 8 mile long 12,600-year-old painting was discovered in the Amazon Rainforest

How an 8 mile long 12,600-year-old painting was discovered in the Amazon Rainforest

The researchers were amazed at how well-preserved the drawings were.

Researchers in the Amazon rainforest found eight miles of an Ice Age 'canvas'.

The drawings included everything from mastodons to giant sloths, and other extinct animals. These artworks are up to 12,600 years old.

To create these amazing drawings, the ancient artists used red pigment extracted from scraped ochre - which make up one of the largest collections of rock art in South America.

'These really are incredible images, produced by the earliest people to live in western Amazonia,' said Mark Robinson, archaeologist at the University of Exeter, who published a paper on the historic discovery in the journal Quaternary International.

Robinson and his team believe indigenous folks began painting these images at Serranía La Lindosa, on the northern edge of the Colombian Amazon, right at the end of the last Ice Age.

Professor José Iriarte/University of Exeter
Professor José Iriarte/University of Exeter

Back then, between 12,600 and 11,800 years ago, 'the Amazon was still transforming into the tropical forest we recognise today,' Robinson continued.

As a result of rising global temperatures, a patchwork of savannas, thorny scrub and forest have transformed into the leafy tropical landscape we know today.

The largely preserved ice age paintings include handprints, geometric designs and a wide range of different animals, from 'small' alligators, bats, deer, monkeys and turtles to 'large' camelids and three-toed hoofed mammals with trunks.

Other figures show humans hunting or co-existing with Ice Age megafauna and savannah creatures.

'The level of observation of the fauna was incredible,' he said.

Already, the images have provided details of what these now-extinct species looked like, according to the researchers.

'The paintings give a vivid and exciting glimpse into the lives of these communities,' Robinson added.

Dave Hoefler/Unsplash
Dave Hoefler/Unsplash

'It is unbelievable to us today to think they lived among, and hunted, giant herbivores, some which were the size of a small car.'

Many of South America's large animals went extinct at the end of the last Ice Age, likely due to a mix of human hunting and climate change, the researchers noted.

In a project called LastJourney, Robinson and his colleagues excavated the rock shelters to uncover when people first settled in the Amazon and how their farming impacted the region.

The findings offered clues about these early hunter-gathers' diets including palm and tree fruits, rodents like paca and capybara, as well as fishing for piranha and alligators.

'These rock paintings are spectacular evidence of how humans reconstructed the land, and how they hunted, farmed and fished,' said the study’s co-researcher and fellow archaeologist.

'It is likely art was a powerful part of culture and a way for people to connect socially.'

Featured Image Credit: Professor José Iriarte/University of Exeter