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Ancient Venezuelan Petroglyphs

Recently, on early December 2017, archaeologists in Venezuela have discovered a massive set of petroglyphs which located in the area of the Raudales de Atures in the Orinoco River and are believed to be around 2,000 years old. Researchers have known for decades that ancient cultures painted elaborate petroglyphs on the sides of rock faces overlooking powerful rapids in the Orinoco River, however the difficulty in reaching the petroglyphs has meant that archaeologists have only had glimpse, bits, and pieces to work with. To get these images, Philip Riris, an archaeologist at the University College of London used drones outfitted with photogrammetry cameras.

The high-tech cameras use photography to create three-dimensional renderings of their subjects. Riris says drones were the best tool because the sheer size of some of the engravings makes them difficult to see from the ground. The research is part of the CotĂșa Island-Orinoco Reflexive Archaeology Project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The region's rock art contains a variety of motifs engraved in similar styles, which indicate to archaeologists the region was once a busy hub for a number of different groups. Experts explain that the petroglyphs include representations of animals, humans and cultural rites.The largest panel, which contains at least 93 individual prints, is 304 square meters in diameter. Some of the figures measure several meters and the representation of a snake has a length of more than 30 meters.

One commonly seen engraving shows what appears to be a flutist surrounded by other people, a scene thought to depict some type of unknown ritual. Another frequently depicted image was what archaeologists describe as a "c-scroll," two opposing spirals. The drawing has been documented as far north as the Caribbean and as far south as the central Amazon.

Previous research has suggested these spirals represent male potency and fertility, but Riris says it's difficult to confirm the exact meaning of those depicted in Venezuela because symbols tend to adopt different meanings in different regions.

Riris and his team, conducted the most detailed and large-scale catalogue of the rock art to date. They hope to use their records to put together a larger look at the region's diverse indigenous cultures, as they were before the arrival of Europeans.


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