10 December 2023 The Future is the Product of the Past

12,000-Year-Old rock art may depict extinct giants of the ice age

South America was filled with ice age animals more than 12,000 years ago, including car-sized ground sloths, elephantine herbivores, and a deer-like species with an extended snout. However, there is much more we do not know and still to learn about what kinds of beings walked on Earth 12,000 years ago.

According to the study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. “the La Lindosa rocky outcrop in the Colombian Amazon rainforest contains thousands of paintings which, along with the ones reported for Chiribiquete National Park, represent one of the richest rock art.

Many of the images in the Serranía de la Lindosa depict hunting and ritual scenes showing humans interacting with plants, forests, and savanna animals.

Among this rich pictorial variety of animals, there are some intriguing images that appear to represent extinct mega fauna including a giant ground sloth, gomphothere, camelids, horses, and three-toed ungulates with trunks that bear some resemblance to some extinct megafauna such as Xenorhinotherium or Macrauchenia.”

According to Jose Iriarte, the author of the study and professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Exeter, UK the rock paintings have the whole diversity of Amazonia. Turtles and fishes to jaguars, monkeys and porcupines.

The giant sloth painting at La Lindosa.
The giant sloth painting at La Lindosa.

“Iriarte calls the frieze, which likely would have been painted over centuries, if not millennia, “the last journey,” as he said 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 place of origin. These pioneers from the north would have faced unknown animals in an unfamiliar landscape.

“They encountered these large-bodied mammals and they likely painted them. And while we don’t have the last word, these paintings are very naturalistic and we’re able to see morphological features of the animals,” he said.

But the discovery of what scientists term “extinct megafauna” among the dazzlingly detailed paintings is controversial and contested.

Other archaeologists say the exceptional preservation of the paintings suggest a much more recent origin and that there are other plausible candidates for the creatures depicted. For example, the giant ground sloth identified by Iriarte and his colleagues could in fact be a capybara — a giant rodent common today across the region,” CNN reports.

Opinions of the nature and timeline of the La Lindosa rock art vary among scientists and more research must be carried out to determine what kind of animals our ancestors encountered and immortalized on the wall.

Iriarte said he and his team have identified five of the animals painted by the Ice Age people. These animals are a giant ground sloth with massive claws, a gomphothere (an elephantlike creature with a domed head, flared ears and a trunk), an extinct lineage of horse with a thick neck, a camelid like a camel or llama, and a three-toed ungulate, or hoofed mammal, with a trunk.

The camelid painting at the La Lindosa rock painting site in Colombia. Photo: The Royal Society
The camelid painting at the La Lindosa rock painting site in Colombia. Photo: The Royal Society

In addition to this, the researcher also said there are fossilized skeletons that will help paleontologists reconstruct what the extinct animals looked like.

As reported by CNN, “while the red pigments use to make the rock art have not yet been directly dated, Iriarte said that ocher fragments found in layers of sediment during excavations of the ground beneath the painted vertical rock faces dated to 12,600 years ago.

The hope is to directly date the red pigment used to paint the miles of rock, but dating rock art and cave paintings is notoriously tricky. Ocher, an inorganic mineral pigment that contains no carbon, can’t be dated using radiocarbon dating techniques. The archaeologists are hoping the ancient artists mixed the ocher with some kind of binding agent that will allow them to get an accurate date. The results of this investigation are expected possibly later this year.

Further study of the paintings could shed light on why these giant animals went extinct. Iriarte said no bones of the extinct creatures were found during archaeological digs in the immediate area — suggesting perhaps they weren’t a source of food for the people who created the art.”

Iriarte acknowledges the new study is not the final word in this debate, he is confident that they have found evidence of early human encounters with some of the vanished giants of the past.

Unlike the Upper Palaeolithic artists of Europe who chose to paint in deep dark caves, these early Amazonians painted in open rock shelters. Preservation of the paintings is highly variable, with images extremely faded or lost where exposed to the elements, whereas panels protected from prevailing wind and rain retain their vibrancy. The vertical rock walls reach up to 10 meters high.

Cover Photo: Las Dantas panel at Cerro Azul, La Lindosa. The Royal Society

Related Articles

Analysis Of Roman Coins sheds light on the Roman financial crisis

17 April 2022

17 April 2022

New scientific analysis of the composition of Roman denarii has brought fresh understanding to a financial crisis briefly mentioned by...

Farmer Found an Ice Age Cave Under His Field

30 March 2021

30 March 2021

A naturally formed cave was found near the town of Kraśnik in southeastern Poland, used by humans during the Ice...

Oregon may be home to oldest human occupied site in North America

12 July 2023

12 July 2023

Where and when the first humans appeared in North America is a contentious issue that many disagree on, and this...

Archaeologists discover rare Caanite inscription on ancient ivory comb

12 November 2022

12 November 2022

Israeli archaeologists discovered a rare inscription on an ivory comb that sheds new light on the Canaanite language’s use some...

In Moravia, archaeologists discover divine thrones, thousands of artifacts and a new settlement

13 August 2021

13 August 2021

During a four-year dig in the Moravian city (Czech Republic) of Perov, rare gems, mysterious burial places, and divine thrones...

Archaeologists may have found the lost 2,000-year-old ancient city of Bassania in Albania

19 June 2022

19 June 2022

Polish archaeologists may have discovered the 2,000-year-old lost city of Bassania in Albania. The remains of two large ancient stone...

Researchers discover America’s oldest mine

23 May 2022

23 May 2022

Archaeological digs headed by Wyoming’s state archaeologist and including University of Wyoming experts have revealed that people began producing red...

A Neolithic Ornate Necklace with Over 2,500 Stones found in a Child’s Grave

3 August 2023

3 August 2023

An ornate necklace found in a child’s grave in ancient Jordan about 9,000 years ago provides new insights into the...

Volunteer archaeologists discovered a 1900-year-old silver military decoration in Vindolanda

17 June 2023

17 June 2023

Volunteer archaeologists have discovered a 1900-year-old military decoration (Phalera) that was awarded to distinguished soldiers and troops in the Roman...

Assyrian Art at Getty Villa

22 June 2021

22 June 2021

The Getty Villa in Malibu, California’s arts complex is showcasing superbly-restored gypsum reliefs from the Assyrian Empire’s palaces for its...

Illegal digs reveal rare Roman-era mass grave in Turkey

28 July 2022

28 July 2022

A total of 27 skeletons were found in a burial pit carved into the rocks in Adıyaman province, an important...

A fragment with the oldest Syriac translation of the New Testament discovered

7 April 2023

7 April 2023

A researcher from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, with the help of ultraviolet photography, was able to discover a small...

An inscription with the name of the ancient city was found at the excavation site in Gordion, the capital of the Phrygians

8 August 2022

8 August 2022

An inscription bearing the name of the ancient city was found at the excavation site in Gordion, the capital of...

The mythical hero of Troy and Rome Aeneas’s peerless mosaic discovered in Türkiye

11 May 2023

11 May 2023

A large mosaic depicting the legendary Trojan hero Aeneas, the protagonist of Virgil’s epic poem “The Aeneid” and the ancestor...

Will new Technology be able to Solve the Mystery in Masovia?

14 May 2021

14 May 2021

Although there are about 500 medieval tombs found in today’s Masovia and Podlasie cities, the question of who these tombs...