Scientists have discovered one of the world’s largest prehistoric rock art collections in the Amazon rain forest. Some call it “the Sistine Chapel of the ancients,” with tens of thousands of paintings on the cliff face. The art includes paintings of animals and humans created up to 12,500 years ago.
The art is located on a cliff face that spans almost 8 miles in Columbia. Scientists came to the 12,500-year-old date partly thanks to images of now extinct animals on the wall common in the ice age, such as the mastodon. The mastodon has been extinct for at least 12,000 years and was a prehistoric relative of the elephant.
Other images on the cliff face that help to date the art include a palaeolama (an extinct camelid), giant sloths, and Ice Age horses. Scientists believe that the art was painted by some of the very first humans to reach the Amazon. The art gives scientists a direct look at ancient civilization.
Because of the eight-foot cliff face the art is painted on, and tens of thousands of images, researchers believe it will take generations to study all the cave art. Scientists discovered the location last year, but it was kept secret until now. It was filmed for a UK series on Channel 4 that will air in December called “Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon.”
The site is located in Serranía de la Lindosa, where other rock art has been discovered in the past. The Chiribiquete National Park is also in the same area. Scientists note that the site is so new it’s yet to be given a name. The area was discovered by a team of British and Colombian researchers funded by the European Research Council.