BOURNEMOUTH University is among the institutions for discovering the largest known prehistoric rock engravings.

Rock engravings recorded by researchers from Bournemouth University (UK), University College London (UK), and Universidad de los Andes (Colombia) are thought to be the largest prehistoric rock art in South America and the art world.

The images engraved include depictions of giant snakes, human figures, and giant Amazonian centipedes carved into rock faces along the Upper and Middle Orinoco Rivers in Venezuela and Colombia.

Bournemouth Echo:

The rock is presumed to date back to at least 2,000 years ago, possibly much older.

Lead author Dr Phil Riris, senior lecturer in archaeological environmental modelling at Bournemouth University, said: “These monumental sites are truly big, impressive sites, which we believe were meant to be seen from some distance away.

“We know that anacondas and boas are associated with not just the creator deity of some of Indigenous groups in the region, but that they are also seen as lethal beings that can kill people and large animals.

“We believe the engravings could have been used by prehistoric groups as a way to mark territory, letting people know that this is where they live and that appropriate behaviour is expected.

“Snakes are generally interpreted as quite threatening, so where the rock art is located could be a signal that these are places where you need to mind your manners.”

Dr José Oliver, reader in Latin American archaeology at UCL Institute of Archaeology, added: “The engravings are mainly concentrated along a stretch of the Orinoco River called the Atures Rapids, which would have been an important prehistoric trade and travel route.

“We think that they are meant to be seen specifically from the Orinoco because most travel at the time would have been on the river. The Archaeology tells us that it was a diverse environment and there was a lot of trade and interaction.

“This means it would have been a key point of contact, and so making your mark could have been all the more important because of that – marking out your local identity and letting visitors know that you are here.”