Saving Paraguay’s threatened rock-art


Enigmatic rock carvings, once hidden deep within the Paraguayan jungle are a testament to the indigenous people of the Amambay hills. However, as the jungle is increasingly torn down around them and the trees set alight by slash and burn farmers, the rock-art is disappearing at an alarming rate.

Saving Paraguay’s threatened rock-art

To the local Pai Tavytera Indians the Amambay hills are sacred and the carvings found within the rock-shelters play an important role in their spiritual life.

The rock-art ranges from pecked human figures dating to the stone-age to carvings encompassing solar images, animal paws, human genitalia and geometric symbols from the more recent past.

A deep connection

Award winning documentary film-maker Frank Weaver has a deep connection with the Pai Tavytera Indians. He was born and raised in Amambay. He became involved with the local tribes in the 1980s volunteering along his father and grandmother, leaders of one of the first environmental NGOs in Paraguay in projects aiming to help maintain the rainforest and reforesting parts of their reservations that had been devastated by land clearing and poor conservation.

Frank explained, “after a while the Indians allowed us to visit their sacred engravings which they call “Ita letra”, or the written stone.”

“I have always had a passion for video,” Frank continued, “so during my visits to Paraguay I started recording tribal traditions.”

“From the first moment I caught sight of the rock-art, my dream was to capture it in a documentary in order to show it to the world and highlight the story of the Indians and their plight.”

He added, “assimilation into Paraguayan culture has been difficult for them ending in either alcoholism or suicide, and many who leave the reservations for city life find themselves living in cardboard shacks on the side of highways.”

Working with spiritual leaders

Frank has worked closely with the Indian’s spiritual leaders in order to document their creation mythology, ancestor stories and religious practices. In doing this it is hoped to obtain some insight into the symbolism employed in the rock carvings.

Leading rock-art specialist Dr. George Nash of Bristol University – who in 2011 discovered the oldest known rock-carving in the United Kingdom (14,500 years old) – made the following statement:

“Rock-art, like any other material culture is a dwindling resource. The rock art of the Guarani Indian region of Paraguay is unique revealing an ancient and vibrant society steeped in ritual and religion. However, the plight of this potentially important resource and its guardians is currently at the mercy of short-term gain. This is yet another small but significant corner of our global village which is now under grave threat from so-called progress; deforestation, the destruction of cultural heritage and the alienation of an indigenous population; it has to stop – NOW.”

Time is running out

Frank is all too aware that time may be running out for these unique records of our past. The damage being done is increasing year on year at an alarming rate and the next burning season gets underway in August. In order to embark on a mission to locate and document as much of the rock-art as possible, he has initiated a crowd funding campaign through Kickstarter and asks for your support to help him achieve his goal.

About the documentary

The Solar Map Project will be a 30 minute documentary shot on location at the Amambay Hills of Paraguay. Frank’s team will visit a local Indian tribe called the Panambi’y, to learn more about their mythology and get an intimate view of their lives in order to try to shed some light onto what the inscriptions mean to them.

The documentary will be Creative Commons in order to ensure scientists and citizen scientists have equal access to the information. By making all findings available online it will be accessible to everyone.

About Frank Weaver

Frank Weaver was born in Pedro Juan Caballero, Paraguay and now lives in Orlando, Florida. In recent years he has travelled to the reservation of the Panambi’y Indians in order to help build the first latrines in the village and along with a local health worker introduced a project of “10 Steps for a Healthier home.” Throughout these visits he undertook audio visual documentation of Indian culture, and the issues they were facing, sharing this information with people all over the world that were interested in Indigenous People’s rights. Lately he has taken many solar lights to the reservation, to try to eliminate the use of harmful kerosene lamps. Frank was initiated in 2005 into the Panambi’y tribe by shaman, Galeano Suarez who makes this comment “Frank is one of us. He was initiated in a ceremony to make him a member of our tribe. I ask all people to support his work as he takes our plight to the world.”

Frank won a National Geographic Award for his video on water conservation, inspiring people to care about the planet.

For more information please visit The Solar Map Project Webpage 

Author/Source: Frank Weaver/The Solar Map Project [February 05, 2013]