Scientists Discover 10,000-Year-Old Cave Paintings in Brazil

Wildlife Conservation Society biologists have discovered cave paintings made by hunter-gatherers between 10,000 to 4,000 years ago while studying wild animals in the Taboco region, the southwestern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Paintings of a cat and prey in a cave in the Taboco region, the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Image credit: Liana Joseph / WCS.

Paintings of a cat and prey in a cave in the Taboco region, the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Image credit: Liana Joseph / WCS.

The discovery was made in 2009, when Dr Alexine Keuroghlian of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Brazil Program and her colleagues were conducting surveys of white-lipped peccaries, herd-forming pig-like animals that travel long distances and are environmental indicators of healthy forests.

The peccaries are vulnerable to human activities, such as deforestation and hunting, and are disappearing from large swaths of their former range from southern Mexico to northern Argentina.

While following signals from radio-collared white-lipped peccaries and the foraging trails of peccary herds, Dr Keuroghlian’s team encountered a series of prominent sandstone formations with caves containing drawings of animals and geometric figures.

Dr Rodrigo Luis Simas de Aguiar, an archaeologist with the Federal University of Grande Dourados, determined that the Taboco cave paintings were made between 4,000 – 10,000 years ago by hunter-gatherer societies that either occupied the caves, or used them specifically for their artistic activities. The paintings are described in a paper published in the journal Revista Clio Arqueológica (full paper).

Painting of a human-like figure and symbols in a cave in the Taboco region, the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Image credit: Alexine Keuroghlian / WCS.

Painting of a human-like figure and symbols in a cave in the Taboco region, the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil. Image credit: Alexine Keuroghlian / WCS.

The style of some paintings is consistent with what archeologists call the Planalto tradition, while others, surprisingly, are more similar to Nordeste or Agreste style drawings.

The paintings depict an assemblage of animals including armadillos, deer, large cats, birds, and reptiles, as well as human-like figures and geometric symbols.

The scientists hope to conduct cave floor excavations and geological dating at the sites in order to fully interpret the paintings.

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Bibliographic information: Rodrigo Luis Simas de Aguiar, Keny Marques Lima. Quantos Estilos Pode Haver em um Mesmo Complexo Rupestre? Considerações Acerca das Pinturas Rupestres do Distrito de Taboco, Município de Corginho (MS). Revista Clio Arqueológica, vol. 27, no. 1