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Record-breaking drought reveals a lost piece of Amazonian past

Plunging water levels expose pre-colonial engravings on the rocks along the Amazon River, near the confluence of the Rio Negro.

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Plunging water levels expose pre-colonial engravings on the rocks along the Amazon River, near the confluence of the Rio Negro.

ARTICLE BY

PUBLISHED

READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

UPDATED: 21 Dec 2023, 11:07 pm

Carvings of human faces as much as 2,000 years old were recently revealed by the record-low water levels in the Amazon, reports Reuters.

Archaeologist Jaime de Santana Oliveira described the engravings as “prehistoric, or pre-colonial,” explaining that the approximate age of 1,000 to 2,000 years old is based on other evidence of human occupation in the area. The rocky point where they were discovered, known as Ponto das Lajes, is located on the north shore of the Amazon near the confluence with the Rio Negro and the upper Amazon (often called the Solimoes River).

Other rock carvings have been sighted at Ponto das Lajes, including smooth grooves that may mark where indigenous inhabitants sharpened their arrows and spears in pre-colonial times. The greater variety revealed by the ongoing drought will help researchers to establish their origins. 

[See more: A drought in the Brazilian Amazon will affect half a million people]

Some of the markings were first seen during another severe drought in 2010. That record-setting drought came at the tail-end of an El Niño period, the result of two unusually dry winters in the Amazon.

Another El Niño period began in June of this year, bringing the region’s worst drought in more than a century. The Rio Negro has dropped 15 metres since July, killing fish and impeding travel for those living in the Amazon. It has also exposed vast expanses of rocks and sand.

As Oliviera and his colleagues work to document the new finds, the Brazilian government continues its efforts to fight drought-fuelled fires in the region and provide humanitarian aid to the 500,000 people expected to be impacted by the drought by year’s end.

 

UPDATED: 21 Dec 2023, 11:07 pm

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