Deep in the Colombian Amazon, in a region called Guaviare, lies the mountain range called La Lindosa (“Very Pretty” in English). Back in 2017, archaeologists “discovered” (I put that in quotes because the term in this context always amuses me, as most sites are usually well known by the indigenous people of the area) a stretch of cliffs that is 8 miles long and is covered with at least 100,000 gorgeous examples of rock art.
This art includes depictions of birds, plants, humans, and animals. Some species are still around today, but some are prehistoric, such as mastodons, giant sloths, and early horses. All of the work is in red. It displays the talent of many artists, and it is at least 12,000 years old, based on the animals depicted. That’s all the more amazing because we know that humans didn’t reach South America until between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago.
This 8 mile stretch of paintings is so detailed, and depicts so many stories, that it has been dubbed the Sistine Chapel of the Ancients. It shows hunting, farming, masks and rituals, as well as geometric symbols. It even shows people standing atop platforms, which is probably what the artists had to do to create the art that is highest up on the cliffs. This is evidence of a sophisticated culture.
I would dearly love to see this art firsthand, but I know it’s never going to happen. First of all, to get there, you not only have to get the permission of the government, but you also have to get permission from the FARC dissidents, or you may never be seen again. After that, you must drive to the nearest village, and then hike for 5 hours. And the hike includes a fair amount of rock climbing as well. So, yeah, never going to happen.
The archeologists are taking 3D imagery of all the art, but I don’t know if the general public will ever be allowed access to it. I hope so. My lazy Google search yielded nothing to date.
By looking at the plants depicted, it was confirmed that when these artists lived here, the Amazon looked nothing like it does today. It was actually composed at the time of forest and open savanna. I bet the artwork was much less hidden and overgrown then. How amazing it must have been to gaze on this work and then turn around and see for miles and miles. Perhaps you might see a herd of mastodon in the distance. That really sparks my imagination.
Currently, I’m watching a documentary entitled “Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon” on Youtube. It’s breathtaking in its scope, and is hosted by the archaeologist Ella al-Shamahi. It’s well worth watching from beginning to end, but if you want to see her trek to visit Serrania de la Lindosa to gaze upon this work, skip to around minute 45. It shows you 15 minutes of jaw dropping rock art. Enjoy!
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