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At La Lindosa, traces of the first inhabitants of the Amazonia

As hunter-gatherer groups found themselves in the last of the main continents, America, they faced not only the enormity of the Amazon jungle but also its environmental diversity.
 

The adaptation to this aggressive and wild ecosystem was without a doubt one of their biggest challenges, evidenced by more than 7,000 rupestrian mega-murals found at the Serranía de La Lindosa, located 17 km south of the municipality of San José del Guaviare.


In May of 2018, the Serranía was appointed as Protected Archeological Area, number 22 of these types of areas in Colombia, along archeological parks like Piedras del Tunjo (Facatativá, Province of Cundinamarca), El Infiernito (Province of Boyacá), Teyuna –or ciudad perdida (lost city)– (Province of Magdalena), and San Agustín e Isnos (Province of Huila), among others.


These rock paintings place this area as one of the most important rupestrian art locations in the world depicting childbirths, hunting and fishing activities, and spiritual rituals, among other daily undertakings.


Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Professors Gaspar Morcote Ríos, of the Institute of Natural Sciences, Francisco Javier Aceituno Bocanegra, of the Department of Anthropology and José Iriarte, of the Exeter University (UK) Department of Archaeology have been following the colonization process of the first inhabitants of the continent trace before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors for five years
 

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The research carried out by this group of scientists at La Lindosa provide archeological evidence of the colonization of the Colombian northeastern Amazon region during the end of the Pleistocene and the transition into the Holocene between 13,000 and 8,000 BP, or the end of the Ice Age.

From the excavation carried out between 2014 and 2019 at the archeological sites known as Cerro Azul, Limoncillos, and Cerro Montoya they established the initial colonization of the region between 12,600 and 11,800 BP. This is relevant information if the archeological record of the Piedra Pintada (Brazil) Cave of between 11,280 and 10,170 BP is taken into consideration, therefore the latter Colombian record is the oldest on the Colombian Amazon.


According to the researchers, the dates obtained are not only the latest in the higher Amazon basin, but they are also essential for researching the colonization of the northeastern region, which due to its geographical position, may be considered as the natural corner of contact with the Andean mountain range, and therefore a potential transit route between high and low lands.
 

Good jungle management


Prospecting and excavating these three natural rock havens, that served as habitats of the first settlers of this territory, allows recovering pieces of evidence of more than 15,000 animal, plant, pottery, and hunting tool vestiges and also mineral pigments employed in ludic activities such as these rupestrian paintings.
 

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30,000 carbonized seeds were recovered at Cerro Azul, most of them belonging to a grand family of palm trees, which still prevails in the imposing landscape of the Serranía de La Lindosa; for instance, they identified species such as the chambira palm, maripa palm, coconut palm tree, açaí, and moriche plants.


In this respect, Professor Morcote says that the palm trees identified are characterized for a fruit forming period of several months and high productivity of fruits and seeds rich in oils and proteins. Furthermore, the indigenous communities that still inhabit the region use the leaves for roofing their houses, for hammocks, baskets, and the tree trunks for posts or walls for building their homes, and making blowpipes, darts, and harpoons, for their hunting and fishing activities.


Fishing, one of the essential activities for survival, also had a main role in ancient populations. In fact, Professor Aceituno says that most animal remains were fish bones, vertebrae, teeth, and cranial fragments.


Among the species discovered were the cachama of blackfin paku, a fish that migrates for spawning, piranhas, which generally thrive in flooded areas along river banks, lakes, and streams across the year and fish of the Cynodontidae–carnivorous predators – and Doradidae families, capable of resisting long periods in oxygen-deprived (anoxic) waters.

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