Category Archives: SOUTH AMERICA

People may have lived in Brazil more than 23,120 years ago

Humans Present at Brazil’s Santa Elina Rock Shelter 23,120 Years Ago, Confirms National Museum of Natural History in Paris

Exact Bone Dating by researchers in the Paris National Museum of Natural History. Details of the new date have been published in a paper in the scientific journal Antiquity of Cambridge University, where the research team places modern people far before the 20,000 years ago in the rock shelter of Santa Elina in Brazil.

Santa Elina rock shelter excavation site above left and sloth bone ornaments with drilled holes above right.

The rock shelter of Santa Elina in central Brazil contains remarkable rock art and confirmation of the first Americans ‘ lengthy occupation.

Humans Present at Brazil’s Santa Elina Rock Shelter 23,120 Years Ago, Confirms National Museum of Natural History in Paris

Occupation of the site is dated to several different periods, suggesting that groups of hunter-gatherers only dwelt at the site when climate favoured hunting in the region. The irregular periods of occupation spread across the Late Pleistocene and Late Holocene.

For many years now teams of archaeologists investigating ancient human occupations sites across Brazil have produced evidence of extremely early colonisation of this part of South America.

The earliest dates associated with Brazilian archaeological research are close to 60,000 years ago. However such extreme figures for colonisation remain highly controversial.

Excavations carried out at the Santa Elina rock shelter between 1984 and 2004 explored three sediment layers containing the remains of hearths, stone artefacts and bones associated with the extinct giant sloth species Glossotherium.

Several of the bony plates from the sloth skin had been converted into ornaments of some kind by the resident humans, the added notches and holes may have allowed these plates to be worn on the body.

Glossotherium, like other giant ground sloths, was a herbivore. It was 13 ft (4m) and weighed 2210 lbs. It would have been one of the largest herbivores in South America. This species became extinct around 12,000 years ago.

Scientists utilised three separate dating methods to investigate samples of charcoal, sediment and the sloth bones. The revealed dates securely place people at the Santa Elina site well over 23,120 years ago. Humans groups abandoned the site after a short period, but later groups utilised the rock shelter again between 10,120 to 2,000 years ago.

The new dates from Santa Elina further erode the consensus understanding that the first modern humans, known as the Clovis people, reached the Americas by walking across a land bridge between Northeast Asia and North America just 13,000 years ago.

In recent years a steady series of archaeological finds have caused a growing number of archaeologists to abandon the ‘Clovis first’ colonisation model.

The evidence of hunter-gatherers living in the Santa Elina rock shelter 23,120 years ago is highly problematic for scientists that still believe humans reached the Americas by walking into North America – the rock shelter is over 12,000 kilometres from the proposed entry site.

Not only is Santa Elina far from the earliest Clovis sites, but it is also over 2000km from the coast in a heavily forested region.

These facts call into question the way in which the American continent was colonised as it is logical to suspect that humans lived along the coastline long before making the arduous journey into the Brazilian interior 23,120 years ago.

A growing number of researchers suspect that the first settlers used canoes to colonise the Americas and perhaps drifted down the Pacific Coast in simple watercraft before heading inland.

Some South American sites once occupied by Stone Age people are closer to the Atlantic coast, raising the possibility of the first colonisation involving a movement of people from Africa.

Turtle fossil the size of a car unearthed shows signs of ancient croc battle

Turtle fossil the size of a car unearthed shows signs of ancient croc battle

Turtle fossil the size of a car unearthed, shows signs of ancient croc battle Fossils of a turtle the size of a car have been unearthed in what is now northern South America.

The turtle – Stupendemys geographicus – is believed to have roamed the region between 13 and 7 million years ago. The fossils were found in Colombia’s Tatacoa Desert and Venezuela’s Urumaco region.

Researchers say they’ve unearthed several fossils from Stupendemys geographicus, a massive freshwater turtle that grew up to four metres (13 feet) long and weighed more than one metric tonne.

The fossilized remains include the largest shell ever recovered and the first piece ever found from the turtle’s lower jaw, according to a paper published in the journal Science Advances.

“Stupendemys geographicus was huge and heavy. The largest individuals of this species were about the size and length of a sedan automobile if we take into account the head, neck, shell, and limbs,” said Edwin Cadena, a paleontologist and lead author of the study.

Venezuelan paleontologist Rodolfo Sánchez is shown with the fossilized shell of Stupendemys geographicus.

The fossils also reveal that males of the species had large horns built into the front of their shells, which are thought to have been used for fighting with other males and fending off larger foes. Females did not have those same horns, according to Marcelo Sanchez, a paleobiologist who led the project at the University of Zurich’s Paleontological Institute and Museum.

“The two shell types indicate that two sexes of Stupendemys existed — males with horned shells and females with hornless shells,” Sanchez said in a news release from the university.

Modern male turtles have also been known to fight with one another, although they lack the shell-mounted weapons of their ancestors.

The stupendous turtle was massive by modern standards, but not when compared to some of the gigantic crocodile ancestors that occupied the same prehistoric swamps of its era. Among those prehistoric predators was the caiman Purussaurus, which measured 11 metres (36 feet) long, and the slightly smaller Gryposuchus, which was 10 metres (33 feet) long.

Fossil evidence shows the turtles definitely tangled with crocodilian predators from time to time, as one of the battle-scarred male shells had a five-centimetre (two-inch) tooth embedded in it.

Paleontologists at work in Venezuela’s Urumaco region

The new fossils were found in the Tatacoa desert of Colombia and the Urumaco region of Venezuela. The specimens include the largest-ever recovered shell fossil, which measures 2.86 meters (9.4 feet) long.

Paleontologists have known about the turtle’s existence since the 1970s, but they haven’t found enough specimens yet to build a full profile of its behaviours.

The newly recovered jaw pieces are expected to shed some light on what the turtle ate, Cadena said.

“Its diet was diverse including small animals — fishes, caimans, snakes — as well as mollusks and vegetation, particularly fruits and seeds,” he told Reuters. “Putting together all the anatomical features of this species indicates that its lifestyle was mostly in the bottom of large freshwater bodies including lakes and rivers.”

Only one turtle in history was thought to be larger: the Archelon, an ocean-dwelling behemoth that measured 4.6 meters (15 feet) long and lived nearly 70 million years ago. Paleontologists don’t know if these turtles were biters — but with their car-sized bodies, one probably wouldn’t want to find out.

30 Million-Year-Old Praying Mantis Is Preserved in Pristine Piece of Amber

30 Million-Year-Old Praying Mantis Is Preserved in Pristine Piece of Amber

Inside a clear piece of amber, there is a small prayer mantis, frozen forever in time. The piece, which measures just slightly over one inch tall, was sold via Heritage Auctions for $6,000 in 2016.

The pristine piece of amber, which comes from the Dominican Republic, gives a rare view of this incredible mantis. The amber itself derives from the extinct Hymenaea protera, a prehistoric leguminous tree.

Most amber found in Central and South America comes from its resin. Amber from the Dominican Republic is known as Dominican resin, which is noted for its clarity and a high number of inclusions.

This tiny fossil could date as far back as the Oligocene period some 23 million to 34 million years ago.

This praying mantis is essentially frozen in time and is one of 2,400 species of its kind. They typically live in tropical climates and is a true relic of evolutionary history.

Heritage Auctions dates the piece in question to the Oligocene period, placing it anywhere from about 23 million to 33.9 million years old.

It’s an important period of time where the archaic Eocene transitions into more modern ecosystems of the Miocene period, which lasted until 5 million years ago. Incredibly, the mantis itself doesn’t appear so different from what we see today.

There are over 2,400 species of mantises today, mainly living in tropical climates. But the earliest mantis fossils, which date back 135 million years, come from a place that is, today, much colder—Siberia.

Some early fossils even show mantises with spines on their front legs, just like modern mantises. Whoever bought this piece of amber took home an interesting piece of evolutionary history, one that can be gazed at each day.

30-Million-Year-Old Praying Mantis
Encased in amber sometime during the Oligocene period
The piece sold for $6,000 back in 2016

2,000-Year-Old Monolith Engravings Recorded in Peru

2,000-Year-Old Monolith Engravings Recorded in Peru

A 2000-year-old jungle monolith decorated with circles, spirals and feline fangs has been 3D scanned in its remote Peruvian location.

Peru is a land of history, myths, and home of some of the most amazing ancient civilizations to ever live on Earth. Inhabited by various ancient cultures such as the Inca or the Tiwanaku and Nazca people, Peru is also home to some of the oldest pyramids ever erected in South America.

The ancient city-state of Caral, for example, was home to people who created some of the most impressive pyramids ever constructed in this part of the world.

But Peru hides many other secrets.

One such secret is a massive one-ton monolith believed to be around 2,000 years old. Not many people know about it, and only a few explorers have seen and documented its existence. Decorated with spirals, circular patterns, and fangs of a deity, the massive rock lies hidden in the north of the Peruvian jungle.

Despite the fact that locals knew of its existence, never has the massive monolith actually been submitted to analysis. Now researchers decided to investigate the massive rock, to see what they could learn. Scientists performed a three-dimensional scan that revealed several engravings adorning its surface.

The images and patterns are so abstract and ornate that they are difficult to describe in words. However, the researchers say that two fangs carved into the rock represent a deity known in archeology as “winged feline figure.”

A 3D scan of the monolith revealed striking symbols.

Reaching the location of the monolith is no easy task. To get there, the researchers began the trip from the town of Leymebaba. Their journey took them on a massive adventure: “we hiked, ran, rode horses through jungles from 6,000 feet [1,800 meters] up to 13,000 feet [4,000 m] to this really remote village where literally nobody goes,” explained Jason Kleinhenz, an application engineer at Exact Metrology, who scanned the monolith in an interview to Live Science.

The goal of the mission was to thoroughly document the monolith and its symbols, using an Artec 3D scanner, especially because the engravings on its surface are in danger of being lost forever due to wind and rain erosion.

Since the stone had remained unstudied and exposed to torrential rains, researchers feared that once they reached the monoliths location, the symbols had disappeared.

However, this was not the case.

Thankfully, when researchers finally arrived at the location where the massive monolith remained hidden, they found a plethora of symbols on its surface. sing their 3-D scanner, the researchers were able to find and document symbols that remained invisible to the naked eye, like the fangs of a winged feline figure. It is precisely this feline figure that helped experts date the massive rock and its symbols.

According to experts, the winged feline engraving indicates that the symbols that carved on the surface of the monolith were created during what archaeologists call the “formative period,” which occurred between 200 BC. and 200 A.D. Researchers note that despite the fact that there were no writings in Peru at that time, studies of other related archeological sites showed that this figure was popular in the area.

Fernandez-Davila stressed that the monolith was likely of great importance and may have been associated with other similar structures. “It’s iconic … only people of that period can carve it the way that it is,” Fernandez-Davila explained. The researchers further explained that the jungle valley where the monolith was placed was most likely “a very important and sacred place.”

What is extremely interesting is the fact that the monolith–which weighs around one ton, and is three meters long, 76 centimeters high and 1.5 meters wide–is made of sedimentary rock that is not found locally, which means that whoever carved it most likely hauled it into the jungle valley from somewhere else.

Dragging the monolith to its present location, though the dense jungle would have been an extremely difficult task, and likely required many people.

“That itself was a tremendous effort, a communal effort definitely,” Fernandez-Davila explained. Evidence that the area where the monolith was located was of great importance is the fact that during the Inca built two baths in close proximity of the monolith, around the 15th century AD.

To understand more about the area, the culture that may have carved the monolith, and the rock itself, researchers plan future expeditions that will hopefully reveal more clues and solve yet another ancient mystery.

Oddly the symbols engraved on top of the Peruvian monolith bear a certain resemblance to another monolith located in Brazil. The Pedra do Inga is a 6,000-Year-Old ancient monolith located in the interior of the Brazilian state of Paraíba. Most of the symbols etched on its surface are thought to depict animals, fruits, humans, constellations, but also a plethora of yet unrecognizable symbols and images. Its most striking symbols are believed to depict stars, the Milky Way as well as the constellation of Orion.

The Pedra do Inga in Brazil, is covered in strange symbols that experts believe are depictions of stars, galaxies, and even constellations.

The Pedra do Inga is much more massive than its Peruvian counterpart: it covers an area of approximately 250 square meters. Although it is difficult to ascertain the age of the rock, experts have proposed that rock formation and its mysterious symbol could be up to six thousand years old.

To date, experts have identified more than 400 engravings on the stone’s surface. Some of the spirals and circles depicted on the Peruvian Monolith bear a strange resemblance to the symbols etched on the Pedra do Inga in Brazil. Is it possible that both monoliths have astronomical importance? If the symbols etched on the Pedra do Inga depict constellations and galaxies, could the symbols on the Peruvian monolith convey the same meaning?

Are these two stones meant to convey the same message left behind by our ancestors? Did the same civilization create them? Does the Peruvian monolith also depict constellations and stars? Further studies will tell.

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.