What are the Biggest Discoveries in Archaeology so far this decade?

The Biggest Discoveries in Archaeology can start with The Sistine Chapel of the ancients. This latest stunning archaeological discovery from deep in the Amazon Rainforest. Nestled between towering limestone table-top mountains that ring the horizon and dotted with immense limestone outcrops is a sheltered natural basin in the Amazon Rainforest, this isolated paradise is crisscrossed by rivers and amongst the most biodiverse places on Earth.

the Biggest Discoveries in Archaeology
The Sistine Chapel of the ancients

Chiribiquete National Park, World Heritage Site, Amazon Rainforest, Colombia.

For centuries this strange sheltered basin was a contested landscape, since 1960 FARC guerrillas have controlled the region and much of the surrounding Columbian countryside.

Then in 2020, a team of Archaeologists from the University of Essex in the UK, and the National University of Colombia, carried out an expedition to the depths of this mysterious basin and what they discovered was so unbelievable that it was kept secret and only announced in 2021.

Impatient readers start grumbling – ‘What the heck Henrey, tell us what they found, damnit.’

Patience my young padawans, anyway, roughly 13-thousand-years-ago, a mind-bogglingly long time ago, some ancient humans reached this sheltered paradise that is guarded by immense walls of limestone mountains and rich with life.

These ancient humans settled down claiming this region for themselves and built yet to be discovered settlements that today lay buried beneath the dense Amazon Rainforest.

However, these Ancients did leave us something utterly incredible. It was finally found in 2020, after 12,500 years of waiting. Humans have once again found The Sistine Chapel of the ancients, one of the Biggest Discoveries in Archaeology so far this decade.

The Sistine Chapel of the ancients

12,500-year-old cave paintings

What these Ancients created would have taken generations of continuous work, I suppose what I’m saying is this wasn’t just some random caveman painting his willy on a wall or sketching a few doodles of animals or stick people.

What the Archaeologists found was an eight-mile-long wall of tens of thousands of prehistoric paintings, that include everything from extinct Ice Age animals, humans hunting and dancing, detailed depictions of edible plants, intricate shapes and flowing complex patterns.

“One of the most fascinating things was seeing ice age megafauna because that’s a marker of time. I don’t think people realise that the Amazon has shifted in the way it looks. It hasn’t always been this rainforest. When you look at a horse or mastodon in these paintings, of course, they weren’t going to live in a forest. They’re too big. Not only are they giving clues about when they were painted by some of the earliest people – that in itself is just mind-boggling – but they are also giving clues about what this very spot might have looked like: more savannah-like.” – Al-Shamahi.

The Sistine Chapel of the ancients

Ice-Age megafauna displayed in the pictographs of the Serranía La Lindosa including: (a) giant sloth, (b) mastodon, (c) camelid, (d, e) horse, (f) long-neck, three-toed ungulate with a trunk.

Honestly, just thinking that there is this 8-mile long cliff face in the depths of the Amazon rainforest that was painted by ancient humans more than 12,500 years ago, and it is all still there, is simply bonkers.

‘Sistine Chapel of the ancients’ rock art discovered in remote Amazon forest

Bonkers, no other words, just bonkers, the age of exploration and new discoveries is still alive.

The below image is one of my favourites, I had to zoom in and crop the original, so I know it doesn’t show all the paintings on this section of the wall, but just take a moment, it’s fascinating.

the Biggest Discoveries in Archaeology so far

This single image shows the Ice Age megafauna these ancient humans would have hunted, two van-sized Mastodon dominate the top left of the image, while near the middle left is what looks like a large wooden tower, which was likely built to enable these ancient people to paint 20 foot off the ground and undertake this monumental generational endeavour, mile after mile.

There is another wooden tower clearly depicted to the middle right, honestly, so far we only have a handful of images and the entire 8-mile-long wall is covered with complex paintings. It will literally take the next decade to fully document and photograph the paintings along the entire wall.

Personally, I believe it is very likely there could be ancient stories depicted on this wall or lessons. This is because these ancient people spent generations over hundreds of years painting an 8-mile long wall in detail, creating giant wooden towers to paint every itty little bit of their canvas. I highly doubt it was all just meaningless doodles.

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