Ancient art in the Amazon © Steve Winter/Getty Images
The stone walls of the tepuis (table-top mountains) in Chiribiquete National Natural Park are decorated with more than 75,000 paintings, some created as long as 20,000 years ago, others in the present day.The jaguar is a recurring motif in the images. Historians think the images of the big cat are expressions of jaguar worship by the indigenous tribes who have lived in the broader area for millennia. This park protects and preserves a 17,000-square-mile expanse of the Colombian Amazon, with a diverse ecosystem supporting many endemic species. In addition, officials believe that Chiribiquete could be home for various indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, the descendants of those who painted the ancient rock art. Both the human cultural history of this place and the extraordinarily pristine natural beauty of the landscape are what earned Chiribiquete UNESCO World Heritage status this year—the rare location to meet both cultural and natural criteria for inclusion on the UN’s list.