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Kwamalasamutu - A view from our expert author
Suriname’s most remote Amerindian settlement lies close to its most important and spectacular petroglyph site.
The most southerly destination in Suriname, Kwamalasamutu is a legendarily remote Amerindian village set on the banks of the Sipaliwini River, close to its confluence with the Corantijn. It is home to around 1,000 predominantly Tiriyó inhabitants, who were first exposed to the outside world in 1960 as a result of Operation Grasshopper, and have since been heavily influenced by the teachings of Baptist missionaries.
The main attraction of the region is the elaborate petroglyphs engraved into the walls of the Werehpai Caves, which lie about two hours’ walk from the village along a rough jungle path. Discovered by outsiders in 2004, Werehpai is a formation of gigantic boulders and overhangs that extends across a couple of hectares, and is decorated with at least 350 ancient rock carvings, the greatest concentration in the Amazon region. Depicting humanoid forms, animals and abstract patterns, the richly symbolic petroglyphs are almost impossible to date, but are probably more than 4,000 years old, the work of unknown forest dwellers presumably ancestral to the Amerindians that inhabit the region today. The rocks are also a nesting site for the Guianan cock-of-the-rock.