Indigenous rock art in Colombia: The Chiribiquete National Natural Park

Dr. Alexander Geurds held a fascinating talk on one of the world’s largest collections of prehistoric rock art discovered in the Colombian Amazonian rainforest.



Efvent held on Tuesday 15th June 2021 at 6.30pm BST via Zoom

About this event

Dr Geurds introduced the rock art of Chiribiquete in south-central Colombia. Situating the site in the wider context of rock art in Middle and South America, he discussed questions of what this expressive form of visual art represents and means.

In 2020, numerous global press releases remarked upon a ‘Sistine Chapel’ documented in South-eastern Colombia, and related it to the indigenous rock art in the Chiribiquete Natural Park. This extensive volume of rock art is certainly extraordinary for the sheer number of pictographs and variety of themes depicted, involving humans and animals, some with significant detail. Certain animal species appear identifiable, including ice age species now already extinct for multiple millennia, such as the giant sloth and a species of prehistoric horse that roamed the Americas before Spanish colonisers reintroduced horses in the early 16th century. What now makes these impressive artistic works even more fascinating are directly associated dates of up to c. 12,000 years ago – placing this rock art during the time period of initial human colonisation of the American hemispheres.

The rock art of Chiribiquete is also unusual in that it is more often reported on in news media than in scholarly circles and emphasising ideas of pristine discovery and mysterious exploration, rather than stimulating discussions of meaning and history.

What defines these complex drawings and how unusual are they really when we look at indigenous rock art in Colombia and further afield? What might the future bring to this indigenous art in Chiribiquete?

This talk will acknowledge the work of Colombian scholars, some of whom have worked in Chiribiquete for decades, building on the rich traditions of anthropological research in Colombia and presenting the world with a remarkable richness of many thousands of past traces of indigenous visual art.

About the speaker

Dr. Alexander Geurds is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford as well as Associate Professor of Middle and South American Archaeology at Leiden University.

He has extensive experience in studying indigenous American pasts across parts of Latin America, including Colombia, and is particularly fascinated by expressions of monumentality across the landscapes of the so-called Istmo-Colombian Area, ranging from Colombia to Honduras. In pursuing this line of research, he has conducted research in museum collections, historical archives, and led pioneering field research into little-known regions of Nicaragua.

His work is widely published in both academic and popular media, also through his long-term role as a National Geographic Explorer.

For further information on the speaker and his publications please follow these links:

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/find-explorers/alexander-geurds

https://www.arch.ox.ac.uk/people/geurds-alexander#tab-614421