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Researchers say that determining the meaning of the rock art is a very complex task. So far, archaeologists have managed to find over 150 rock art paintings which are believed to have been created between 2000 BC and 500 AD.
The intricate rock art is believed to have been used by our ancestors to mark territory.
For around five years, researchers have been meticulously analyzing rock art found in the Limari Valley, in north-central Chile.
Researchers argue that discovering traces of this type of visual language, created thousands of years ago by inhabitants of Latin America has been extremely complex.
Regrettably, due to the passage of time and weather conditions affecting the area, the ancient paintings are highly deteriorated and are nearly impossible to identify with the naked eye.
However, technology is there to save the day once again.
Thanks to high-resolution cameras and specialized software, experts have been able to detect the presence of paintings that have nearly disappeared.
Over 150 pieces of rock art –created by hunter-gatherers between 2000 B.C. and 500 A.D.— have bene found thanks to specialised equipment by researchers.
The area where the rock art was found is a vast area located some 400 kilometers from Santiago de Chile, south to the arid Atacama desert.
As part of the study, experts captured numerous images of the rocks where they believed rock art was present. Then, with the help of ‘DStretch software, ‘ the images were analysed.
DStretch is able to detect colors and patterns which are nearly impossible to see with the naked eye.
“This program has algorithms predefined for working with rock art,” says study leader Andres Troncoso, an archaeologist at the University of Chile.
“These new technologies are allowing us to account for a universe of representations that were poorly known because the conservation status of these paintings is bad,” says Marcela Sepulveda, an archaeologist at the University of Tarapaca.
Among the numerous images captured by researchers, experts singled out those where they could still find some sort of archaeological evidence like traces of pigment.
Scientists also considered designs that were consistent with the rock art was already known in the area and undoubtedly had been produced by man.
The discovered ancient rock art mainly depicts lines, circle, and squares painted in different colors.
Researchers speculate that different pigments were obtained through the use of minerals found in the area and combined with some kind of animal fat, although future studies should determine whether that is exactly how our ancestors did it.
Also, researchers are unsure as to what type of tools were used by hunter-gatherers to make the paintings.
Experts speculate that brushes, fingers or a combination of both techniques could have been used.
What experts do know is the material the ancient utilized in each color: Red was made with hematite, green with copper, yellow with goethite and black with coal.
“We were lucky that the black paintings were made with coal,” Troncoso says. Thanks to that, researchers were able to perform radiocarbon analysis to date the paintings more accurately. “If you look at the archaeological literature globally, there are very few absolute dates for rock art,” he explains, emphasizing the importance of this finding.