Ancient Art Galleries in Colombia

Helen Pugh
8 min readApr 3, 2023

Once upon a time, horses and giant ground sloths roamed South America. There were even animals similar to elephants. And that’s not all. Long ago, human beings got to see these awesome creatures. They respected and worshipped them.

We’re going to take a look at people who lived in what we now call Colombia at least 13,000 years ago, which was during the last Ice Age that ended 11,700 years ago. We’ll also briefly look at another group who may have lived in Colombia at least 20,000 years ago.

Okay, but how do we know that these ancient Amazonians saw ground sloths and horses, then? Well, it’s because these animals feature in some paintings on rock walls in Colombia. We’ll see more details about this in a second. Let’s start with when and where the paintings were found.

Well, the local Indigenous people knew about them, whereas the rest of the world knew very little until a team of archaeologists led by Professor José Iriarte began to study these mind-blowing rock paintings in 2017. The team travelled to south-eastern Colombia, to an area called Serranía de La Lindosa, to see huge rock faces that are absolutely covered in rock paintings. Most of these paintings are red or brown and were created using ochre, a natural earth pigment.

The ancient inhabitants of the area would have stared in wonder at these rocky areas standing out tall and proud in the landscape. They probably thought of them as holy places, as places jam-packed full of tingling energy and magic. And archaeologists believe these early Amazonians were the ones who have left their art on three tall, long, natural walls in what is now a jungle. The paintings go on for 8 entire miles altogether!

Some paintings are of humans– someone wearing a bird mask, people holding hands, a group of dancers and perhaps pregnant women. Others are lines, squiggles, patterns, hand-prints, plants and (you guessed it!) animals. There are fish, turtles, lizards, birds and all sorts of mammals. The ancient people were telling their life stories using natural paint and stone walls. I bet you’re glad we have pen and paper nowadays; it’s a little easier!

One thing they wanted to illustrate to each other was their religion. They painted ceremonies and special dances. As with music, the dances were a way of speaking to Mother Nature and the spirits. Because nature spoke to humans, the humans wanted to answer nature’s words.

Another thing they wanted to show was their admiration for animals. They painted acrobatic monkeys leaping through the air from tree to tree by twisting their flexible bodies into all sorts of…



Helen Pugh

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