Human faces and other figures carved into stone up to 2,000 years ago have been uncovered on the banks of the Amazon River, where a historic drought in the Brazilian region has reduced water levels to unprecedented levels.
The petroglyphs, which include animals and other natural forms, were uncovered on the shores of the Rio Negro River, at an archaeological site known as Ponto das Lajes, or Place of the Tablets.
Researchers estimate that the marks are between 1,000 and 2,000 years old.
These sculptures were previously seen during a severe drought in 2010, when the water level in the Rio Negro dropped to 13.63 metres, its lowest level ever.
It reappeared this month, with more signs appearing as the waters receded further. Amid an unusually dry season that scientists attribute to the El Niño climate phenomenon and the rise in temperature in the North Atlantic Ocean linked to climate change, the level of the Rio Negro River fell below 13 meters for the first time ever, as its depth was recorded at 12.89 meters on Monday.
In addition to anthropomorphic faces and water depictions, some of the rocks display grooves indicating that the site was also used for stone tool production.
Carlos Augusto da Silva of the Federal University of Amazonas identified 25 groups of carvings on a single rock that he believes was used as a whetstone for sharpening various tools. “This was an area for preparing tools,” the archaeologist told local news site Amazonia Real.
Fragments of ceramics believed to be thousands of years old have reportedly been found at the site, which was home to large indigenous villages in pre-Columbian times.
Although classified as an archaeological site, the petroglyphs at Ponto das Lajes have not been studied, and researchers estimate their age based on similar rock carvings in other parts of central Amazonia.
“These sites, which today are archaeological sites with black soil and large amounts of ceramic fragments and rock carvings, tell the ancient indigenous history of the region and should be treated with respect by all of us living in Manaus today,” said archaeologist Filippo Stambanoni Bassi. Amazonia Real.
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