Category Archives: CHILE

Waves Over Centuries Has Carved this Marble Cave into Stunning Shapes and Swirling Patterns

Waves Over Centuries Has Carved this Marble Cave into Stunning Shapes and Swirling Patterns

The Cuevas de Mármol is situated on a strong marble island on the edge of the General Correra Lake on the Patagonian Andes, an outlying glacial lake that stretches across the border between Chile and Argentina.

Dubbed as the most beautiful cave network in the world, Cuevas de Marmol (Marble Caves) is a 6,000-year-old sculpture hewn by the crashing waves of Lake General Carrera of Patagonia in Southern Chile.

Also called the Marble Cathedral, the intricate caverns are part of a peninsula made of solid marble surrounded by the glacial Lake General Carrera that spans the Chile-Argentina border.

The swirling pattern on the cave interiors is a reflection of the lake’s azure waters, which change depending on the water levels dictated by weather and season.

Visitors are enamored by the Marble Cave’s unique ability to constantly change its appearance.

In early spring, the shallow waters are turquoise and create a crystalline shimmer against the caves’ swirling walls. Come summer, the water levels increase and create a deep blue hue which gives the cave a unique unearthly shade.

The water levels are significantly affected by the freezing and melting of the surrounding glaciers. It’s also from these glaciers where the lake takes the fine silt sediments that rest on the lake bed.

To get to the caves, one must embark on a long and difficult journey starting from a flight to the Chilean capital of Santiago. Visitors must then travel 800 miles on major highways to the next big city Coyhaique, followed by a 200-mile drive on rough dirt roads towards the lake.

Located far from any road, the caves are accessible only by boat. Thirty-minute tours are operated by a local company, weather and water conditions permitting.

The best time of the year to visit the Marble Caves is roughly between September and February when the ice melts feeding the lake and the color of the water is particularly enchanting turquoise.

In terms of hours, the best time to take a boat tour is early morning to catch the right lighting for great pictures.

Finally, a boat is needed to access the caves. But though the journey is long and challenging, many agree the enchanting beauty of the caves is definitely worth the effort.

Earliest Ever Human Footprint in the Americas Discovered, Dating Back 15,600 Years

Earliest Ever Human Footprint in the Americas Discovered, Dating Back 15,600 Years

This illustration shows how the ancient footprint may have been made about 15,600 years ago in what is now Chile.
This illustration shows how the ancient footprint may have been made about 15,600 years ago in what is now Chile.

The earliest recorded human footprint in the Americas was not found in Canada, the United States, or even Mexico; it was found much further south, in Chile, and a new study finds it dates back to an amazing 15,600 years ago.

The finding sheds light on when humans first reached the Americas, probably by traveling in the midst of the last ice age across the Bering Strait Land Bridge.

This 10.2-inch-long (26 centimeters) print might even be evidence of pre-Clovis people in South America, the group that came before the Clovis, which are known for their distinctive spearheads, the researchers said.

The find suggests that pre-Clovis people were in northern Patagonia (a region of South America) for some time, as the footprint is older than archaeological evidence from Chile’s Monte Verde, a site about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south containing artifacts that are at least 14,500 years old. 

Vertebrate paleontologist Leonora Salvadores discovered the footprint in December 2010, when she was an undergraduate student at the Austral University of Chile.

At the time, Salvadores and her fellow students were investigating a well-known archaeological site known as Pilauco, which is about 500 miles (820 km) south of Santiago, Chile.

Earliest Ever Human Footprint in the Americas Discovered, Dating Back 15,600 Years
This footprint is about 15,600 years old.

However, it took years for study lead researcher and paleontologist Karen Moreno and study lead investigator and geologist Mario Pino, both at the Austral University of Chile, to verify that the print was human, radiocarbon date it (they tested six different organic remnants found at that layer to be sure) and determine how it was made by a barefoot adult.

Part of these tests involved walking through similar sediment to see what kinds of tracks got left behind. These experiments revealed that the ancient human likely weighed about 155 lbs. (70 kilograms) and that the soil was quite wet and sticky when the print was made.

It appears that a clump of this sticky dirt clung to the person’s toes and then fell into the print when the foot was lifted, as the image below suggests.

This sequence shows how the footprint may have been made.

This sequence shows how the footprint may have been made.

The footprint is classified as a type called Hominipes modernus, a footprint usually made by Homo sapiens, the researchers said. (Just like species, trace fossils, such as footprints, receive scientific names.)

Previous excavations at the site revealed other late Pleistocene fossils, including the bones of elephant relatives, llama relatives and ancient horses, as well as rocks that humans may have used as tools, the researchers said.

The study “adds to a growing body of fossil and archaeological evidence suggesting that humans dispersed throughout the Americas earlier than many people have previously thought,” said Kevin Hatala, an assistant professor of biology at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was not involved with the study.

This find comes a mere year after the discovery of the oldest known human footprints in North America, which date to 13,000 years ago, Hatala noted.

It would be nice to have more data from the Chile site — “more footprints, more artifacts, more skeletal material and so on,”  But unfortunately, the fossil and archaeological records are never as generous as we’d like! With just a single human footprint to work with, the authors extracted as much information as they could.

When we look at this evidence in the context of other data, it makes a strong case for the antiquity of [the] human presence in Patagonia.”The footprint is now preserved in a glass box and is housed at the recently established Pleistocene Museum in the city of Osorno, Chile.