Archaeologists have discovered an enormous collection of prehistoric art that spreads across a nearly eight-mile-long cliff within the Amazon rainforest. Now dubbed as the “Sistine Chapel of the ancients,” tens of thousands of paintings depict humans and animals like sloths, horses, and the now-extinct palaeolama and mastadon. The latter creatures haven’t occupied regions in South America for almost 12,000 years, which has provided the British-Columbian archaeology team with a timeline for the artworks’ origins.
Although the findings were discovered last year, they’ve been kept private because they’ll be presented as part of a Channel 4 documentary titled Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon, which airs this month. Archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi, who is leading the television series, told The Guardian that the site, which is located in the Serranía de la Lindosa, required a two-hour drive from San José del Guaviare and an additional four-hour trek on foot to reach. “When we entered Farc territory, it was exactly as a few of us have been screaming about for a long time,” Al-Shamahi said. “Exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over but the big discoveries now are going to be found in places that are disputed or hostile,” noting that Columbia has been ravaged by a civil war for decades.
Because of the breadth of the paintings—some are so high on the cliff that they only can be studied with drones—researchers believe the findings will take generations to study. So far, though, they’ve found traces of ochre pigments, in addition to renderings of hallucinogenic plants and depictions of people who appear to be bungee jumping.