Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon – Rock Paintings

By Bernie Bell

We’ve been recording, and watching, a series of television programmes called  ‘Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon’, presented by Ella al-Shamahi. 

Thursday evening, we watched Episode 2    https://www.channel4.com/programmes/jungle-mystery-lost-kingdoms-of-the-amazon  in which Ella is taken to see some rock paintings.  When I saw them, I thought they looked very  like Australian Aboriginal rock paintings – like rock paintings and carvings in other places too – geometric patterns, hand prints – but, very, very like Australian Aboriginal work.

And then, it turns out that the people of this part of the Amazon rainforest, share DNA with Australian Aborigines!  And – they have myths and stories about how their people first came there from another place.

I’ll now digress to how this DNA link was discovered. The people who live there now, told Ella that ‘some scientists’ came, and took samples of their blood – didn’t explain why, didn’t properly ask permission. Never got back to them to tell them what became of it.  Ella is appalled by this  – but it is an all too common tale. People from ‘advanced’ nations – mostly Europeans,  went to/go to other places, where they didn’t/don’t see the people there, as people.  They saw/see them as specimens, and treated/treat them accordingly.  It’s what happened to the Australian Aboriginals – there are instances of their skins and skulls  being brought back to Britain for research or storage in museums.  These weren’t ancient ‘finds’ – they were from people who were living in those places, at the time.  Living, working, loving, hating….people.

It happened in the past and it is happening now – treating people as though they are not people.

So, these ‘scientists’ came and took  blood samples – and this is another digression – blood.  Blood, matters – long before recent developments in the understanding of DNA, blood was seen to matter to people. If the blood of a clan or tribe member was spilt, there would  be retribution.  I’m not saying that’s a good approach to have! But, before recent knowledge of DNA, many groups of humans valued blood – saw it as something which…..held our spirit, held our essential self, and our self as part of our group.

And that group could be said to be humanity, with all its variations.

The reader might have noticed that I refer to ‘rock painting’ not rock art – who’s to say it was ’just’ art?  The images could be telling  stories,  telling history, telling myths, telling of blood lines.  As with other indecipherable marks which are referred to as ‘art’ – I wonder, are they? And, of course, art can also be used to tell the tale, represent events.  Some marks which we make, are simply made to be aesthetically pleasing – many do much more. I wonder, do these paintings tell us tales, give us information, which we have lost the way of reading?  https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/10/29/writing-symbols/

This programme has much of interest –  much which is dis-heartening about how people are with each other – but also, much about the spread and connectivity of humanity, and the ties of blood. 

I strongly recommend watching it. 

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