Newsdeck

Amazon drought

Ancient Amazon River rock carvings exposed by drought

Ancient Amazon River rock carvings exposed by drought
A picture taken with a drone shows inhabitants of the Bom community carrying supplies over a dry river bed due to the severe drought that is hitting the Amazon basin, in Manaquiri, Amazonas, Brazil, 21 October 2023. After the Negro River fell to a record level, the Solimões River (the name given to the Amazon River before its meeting with the Negro River, in the capital Manaus) also reached its minimum levels in several cities where measurements are carried out. EPA-EFE/Raphael Alves

MANAUS, Brazil, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Human faces sculpted into stone up to 2,000 years ago have appeared on a rocky outcropping along the Amazon River since water levels dropped to record lows in the region's worst drought in more than a century.

Some rock carvings had been sighted before but now there is a greater variety that will help researchers establish their origins, archaeologist Jaime de Santana Oliveira said on Monday.

One area shows smooth grooves in the rock thought to be where Indigenous inhabitants once sharpened their arrows and spears long before Europeans arrived.

“The engravings are prehistoric, or precolonial. We cannot date them exactly, but based on evidence of human occupation of the area, we believe they are about 1,000 to 2,000 years old,” Oliveira said in an interview.

The rocky point is called Ponto das Lajes on the north shore of the Amazon near where the Rio Negro and Solimoes rivers join.

Oliveira said the carvings were first seen there in 2010, but this year’s drought has been more severe, with the Rio Negro dropping 15 meters (49.2 feet) since July, exposing vast expanses of rocks and sand where there had been no beaches.

“This time we found not just more carvings but the sculpture of a human face cut into the rock,” said Oliveira, who works for the National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN) that oversees the preservation of historic sites.

By Suamy Beydoun

(Reporting by Suamy Beydoun; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Richard Chang)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.