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‘Sistine Chapel’ of Prehistoric Rock Art Discovered in Colombia

Last year, combing the nearly impenetrable jungles of the Colombian Amazon, archaeologists discovered an astonishing series of rock paintings, thousands upon thousands of them, covering an eight-mile long network of cliffs. The paintings depict hunters attacking animals that have been extinct for at least 12,000 years, like mastodons and giant prehistoric lamas. Based off that, researchers are dating the paintings to be in the neighborhood of 12,500 years old.

“It’s going to take generations to record them,” José Iriarte, professor of archaeology at Exeter University told the Guardian. “Every turn you do, it’s a new wall of paintings.”

Reports say the art is so well-preserved, and so well-done, it’s possible to notice the distinct facial features of ice age horses in the paintings. In addition to horses, lamas, and mastadons, there are depictions of people dancing, birds, lizards, and fish too.

“One of the most fascinating things was seeing ice age megafauna because that’s a marker of time,” said archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi. “I don’t think people realise that the Amazon has shifted in the way it looks. It hasn’t always been this rainforest. When you look at a horse or mastodon in these paintings, of course they weren’t going to live in a forest. They’re too big. Not only are they giving clues about when they were painted by some of the earliest people – that in itself is just mind-boggling – but they are also giving clues about what this very spot might have looked like: more savannah-like.”

Al-Shamahi is the host for a TV special documenting the paintings, which has been in production for a year and which is why the find had been kept secret. The program debuts on England’s Channel 4 later this month.

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