CERRO AZUL, Colombia – Prehistoric cave paintings hidden through the centuries by the jungles of Cerro Azul, a mountain in Colombia’s Lindosa range that forms part of Chiribiquete National Park, were included by UNESCO on its list of World Heritage Sites.
This natural wonder occupies part of the southern Colombian provinces of Guaviare and Caqueta, and covers 4,208,095 hectares (16,248 sq. miles) of protected land, according to the expansion announced this Monday by President Juan Manuel Santos on a visit to the Lindosa area, which for its part covers 28,000 hectares of protected land.
“We’re witnessing something very important for our country, Colombia, and for the world, for humanity – we’re in the Lindosa mountains, which we have just declared a protected area. This mountain range belongs to Chiribiquete Park, which is perhaps the world’s most important biodiversity center,” he said.
The president wasn’t exaggerating, taking into account that in recognizing Chiribiquete National Park as a natural and cultural site, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Manama, Bahrain, highlighted its geological characteristics and its essence as a home to native peoples and endemic species.
According to UNESCO, one of Chiribiquete’s “most impressive” characteristics is the existence of a large number of tepuys, or table-top mountains, where more than 75,000 cave paintings have been found.
After half an hour’s climb up the Cerro Azul tepuy, for example, the prehistoric paintings that decorate the mountain caves come into view.
Anthropomorphic and geometric figures, animals and plants painted on these rock walls by primitive man make up a mural some 100 meters (330 feet) long and 20 meters high, the largest of the thousands on the Cerro Azul and the Lindosa mountains.
These marvels were discovered some 30 years ago, but because of Colombia’s armed conflict, only now can they be studied, since for decades the FARC guerrillas dominated the area, making any expedition impossible.