- The paintings were discovered at Izcuña, a new site in Chile's Atacama Desert
- They depict scenes of bright-red whales, sea lions and sharks being hunted
- Evidence suggests that the society living there specialised in marine hunting
- Its fishing and hunting technology included fish-hooks made from shell, bone, cactus spines and copper, and rafts made of sea lion skin
Stunning rock art on the Chilean coast has revealed how ancient hunter gatherers in the area used harpoons and rafts to hunt marine animals.
The cave paintings date back to 1,500-years ago, and depict the slaughter of a variety of creatures, including whales, sea lions, swordfish and sharks.
The pictographs, painted in iron-oxide, comprise of hundreds of hunting scenes and portray a complex marine hunter-gatherer society.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the society living in El Médano - a valley in between the ocean and the desert - specialised in hunting marine creatures.
Their sophisticated fishing and hunting technology included fish-hooks made from shell, bone, cactus spines and copper, and rafts made of sea lion skin.
The paintings were discovered at a new site in El Médano, on the Atacama Desert coast in northern Chile, with the findings published in the journal Antiquity.
'I think the most significant discovery is the relationship between these human groups and these marine animals, understanding how they were captured and technical developments,' Benjamín Ballester, a researcher with the Prehistoric Ethnology Team at the University Panthéon-Sorbonne in Paris and the lead author of the study, told the MailOnline.
Rock art was first found in El Médano in 1918, and for thousands of years only the local Paposo people knew of it.
The latest study focuses on a newly discovered sit called Izcuña, a few miles north of El Médano.
The pre-hispanic inhabitants of this coastline used strokes of intense red colour to create images of whales, swordfish, marlin, squid, sea lion, turtles and sharks.
While some are hunting scenes, others depict rafts with seafarers and harpoon lines.
According to the researchers, the paintings are based on the everyday experiences of those inhabitants.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the society living in El Médano at the time specialised in marine resource exploitation, and its sophisticated fishing and hunting technology.
This allowed the inhabitants of this area to be productive, creating permanent residential camps located near water springs and on natural jetties, from which small groups could explore large territories.
According to the researchers, 328 paintings were found in the Izcuña ravine on 24 blocks of rock.
Although dense fog (called camanchaca) has bought moisture which has faded some of the paintings, enough of it has been preserved to date it in comparison to other El Médino art.
The most commonly painted motif are large fish silhouettes, while other common motifs include hunting scenes with rafts and weapons.
While terrestrial animals such as turtles were represented in the paintings, marine animals were rarely shown.
'In hunting scenes, prey is always represented as oversized (averaging 3.9 times bigger) compared to rafts and their crew,' Ballester wrote in his study.
'This style intentionally places the prey as the protagonist, as evidenced by the detailed, meticulous depictions of the anatomy and physiology of the animals.
'This is contrasted by the simple, undetailed human drawings created using lineal strokes.
'Detail here is limited to the occasional seafarer’s headdress, represented by two lateral protuberances.'
During previous excavations, archaeologists found makeshift harpoons dating back to 7,000 years ago.
'The rock art offers clues concerning hunting strategies, such as labour organisation, hunting roles, the number of harpoon lines involved in the hunt, animal movement during the chase, the position of attack and the perspectives of painters,' Ballester wrote.
'They also contain a huge corpus of information concerning the cultural knowledge of animal anatomy, physiology and behaviour—essentially, their interspecies relationships.
'For unknown reasons, the pictographs usually represent successfully accomplished hunting scenes, once the animal is harpooned.
'Thus, they most often represent success in the hunt, rather than the process of hunting.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5408369/Ancient-Chilean-rock-art-suggests-hunters-killed-whales.html#ixzz58ShCfvJ8
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