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Brazil's drought exposes ancient rock engravings on banks of Amazon River

Ancient rock engravings in Brazil   -  
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Brazil’s worst drought in more than a century has exposed dozens of ancient carvings sculpted into the stone along the Amazon River up to 2,000 years ago.

“In 2010, the engravings from this particular site were revealed and registered. But now they have reappeared and with the worsening of the drought, more of the engravings have been identified,” said Beatriz Carneiro of Brazil’s Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (Iphan).

She said the site at Praia das Lajes has an "inestimable" value in understanding the first people who inhabited the region, a field still little explored.

Most of the engravings are of human faces, some of them oval and others rectangular, with smiles or serious expressions.

There are also grooves in the rock, believed to where the inhabitants once sharpened their arrows and spears.

"Archaeology allows us to understand the way of life of pre-colonial populations and this site provides important data," said Iphan archaeologist, Jaime Oliveira.

He added that, in addition, the find shows that these groups also experienced periods of severe drought to the point where the river reached the same level as today.

Both scientists and locals are delighted to see the engravings.

“I think everyone should come and see what it is because sometimes we doubt it. In fact, we think about the people who existed before us, our ancestors,” said Lívia Oliveira, a resident of the Amazon’s largest city, Manaus.

But the fact that they can, raises concerns about the dramatic drop in the river level in recent weeks, affecting a region that depends on the maze of waterways for transportation and supplies.

“I also wonder about this drought, if this river will exist in 50 or 100 years' time. You wonder because I’ve never seen it this low,” she said.

The Brazilian government has sent emergency aid to the area, where normally bustling riverbanks are dry and littered with stranded boats.

Authorities say the drought could impact up to half a million people in the Amazon by the end of the year.

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