Amazon Drought Exposes Ancient Human Faces Carved into Riverbed

The Amazon waters have dropped to record low levels, exposing ghostly human faces etched into the rocky riverside two millennia ago. 

The petroglyphs, which also depict animals and flora, were carved into the shores of the Rio Negro, in the Brazilian portion of the Amazon river. The Rio Negro is home to an archaeological site known as the Ponto das Lajes, meaning Place of Slabs. The carvings were previously spotted during the 2010 drought, when water levels fell by 44 feet. The drought hitting the Amazon port in Brazil today is even worse, dangerously drying tributaries, cutting off water to jungle villages, and imperiling vulnerable marine life. 

The exacerbated circumstances have revealed more carvings than ever recorded. Anthropomorphic faces and abstract depictions of river currents are among the ancient artworks; researchers also discovered grooves in the rocks that suggest the site was used to sharpen ancient tools.

Carlos Augusto da Silva of the Federal University of Amazonas told the local online news site Amazônia Real that his team identified 25 groups of etchings on a single rock that were likely used for this purpose. “This was an area for the preparation of tools,” he said, as quoted by the Guardian. adding that this part of the Amazon jungle was home to large Indigenous communities in the pre-Columbian era (roughly 1000 BCE to 1000 CE).

“These locations, today archeological sites with black soil, large quantities of ceramics fragments, and rock carvings, tell the region’s ancient Indigenous history and must be treated with respect by all of us who live in Manaus today,” fellow archaeologist Filippo Stampanoni Bassi told Amazônia Real.

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