Amazon Drought Reveals Ancient Rock Faces

The Brazilian Amazon is struggling through such a severe drought that shrinking rivers have receded to reveal ancient petroglyphs. These stone faces and figures may be up to 2,000 years old.

The drought is so bad that it has cut off food and water supplies to some towns and villages, and the water level at Manaus has reached its lowest point in at least 121 years. As water levels on the Rio Negro dropped to below 13m near the archeological site of Ponto das Lajes, the carvings emerged.

Researchers saw some of the carvings once before, during a similarly devastating drought in 2010. But this month, waters receded to the lowest on record, and more carvings are now visible.

Unknown carvings

The recently exposed rocky area, near where the Rio Negro and Solimoes River join, also shows evidence of stone tool production.

“This region is a pre-colonial site which has evidence of occupation dating back some 1,000 to 2,000 years,” archaeologist Jaime Oliveira told local media.

The Rio Negro with normal water levels.

The Rio Negro with normal water levels. Photo: Shutterstock


The petroglyphs are still unstudied. Researchers have estimated their age based on similar carvings elsewhere in the Amazon.

The drought, attributed by scientists to the onset of El Nino and human-driven climate change, could last until December, according to Brazil’s science ministry. This gives scientists only a brief window to study the carvings.

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.