Ice Age Managerie? In South American rock art, researcher sees an ancient world.

AT the end of the last ice age, South America was home to strange animals that have vanished into extinction : giant ground sloths, elephant-like-herbivores and ancient lineage of horses.

A new study suggests that we can see these lost creatures in enchanting ocher paintings made by ice age humans on a rocky outcrop in the Colombian Amazon.

The rock art displays are at Serrania de la Lindosa, a site on the banks of the Guayabero River, long known to the area's Indigenous people but virtually off limits to researchers because of the Colombian civil war.

Recent expeditions led by Jose Iriarte, an archeologist in Britain, have renewed interest in the interpretation of the animals in the paintings.

''The whole biodiversity of the Amazon is painted there,'' Dr. Iriarte said, as well as ''animals that are very intriguing and appear to be ice age large mammals.''

In the study, Dr. Iriarte and his colleagues argue that the rock art depicts ice age megafauna.

Ekkehat Maotki, a professor emeritus at Northern Arizona University, called the team's claims ''wishful thinking'' in an email. He and other experts consider the identification of ice age fauna to be mere guesses.

These disputes could be resolved later this year when age estimates for the paintings are refined, one of the skeptics said. [Becky Ferreira]


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