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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Drought Uncovers 2000-Year-Old Stone Carvings Depicting Human Faces

Archaeologists have uncovered the faces of people sculpted into stone over 2,000 years ago. They emerged on a rocky outcrop exposed during the Amazon River’s worst drought in over a century. While some of these carvings had been known, the low water level has uncovered a greater variety and will help researchers establish their origins.

The petroglyphs, or rock carvings, depicting animals and other natural forms, were found on the shores of the Rio Negro at an archaeological site called Ponto das Lajes, which means “Place of Slabs.” A local government official says the slabs are around 1,000 and 2,000 years old. The area used to be covered by a large lake, and the petroglyphs are believed to have been created by indigenous people in the region.

While some images on the stones are of mutilated beings, most appear to be of essential persons or individuals in distress or awe of the gods. Others depict animals and are considered ritual offerings by the people who carved them. The mutilated beings depicted appear to be suffering in various ways, including having their faces twisted or having blood pouring from their heads.

Other slabs contain drawings of snakes and other creatures. In one case, a snake is shown swallowing a human head, suggesting that the mutilated beings may have been sacrificed to appease a particular deity. Some of the images are also thought to represent battles between indigenous groups.

It’s not the only time a historic drought has revealed ancient art. Last year, a similar phenomenon helped scientists discover a previously unknown cave painting thought to be more than 26,000 years old. The etchings, dated to the early Homo sapiens era, were drawn on rock surfaces near a lake in the southern Peruvian Andes and are characterized by human hands forming complex shapes. The hand stencils suggest that the people who made them were skilled at using the tool.

Another remarkable discovery has been made in England, where a facial reconstruction has brought to life the appearance of an Anglo-Saxon teen buried 5,500 years ago. The girl, named Whitehawk, was a member of the Homo floresiensis subspecies, which is sometimes referred to as the “hobbit” because of its diminutive size.

Researchers used DNA and other measurements from the girl’s skull, including the length of her femur bones, to create this facial approximation. They also consulted a database of body proportions to determine how tall the woman was and what her complexion looked like. The results show she was a little shorter than today’s average female and had brown eyes and dark hair. Her face was rounded, and her features appeared to be weathered.

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