Institute of Archaeology


Rock Art Inter-Ontologies in Northwest Amazonia

21 September 2023

Raoni Valle, who has been awarded a British Academy Visiting Fellowship at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, outlines his research project in Northwest Amazonia.

British Academy logo

Raoni Valle (LAVAI - Visual Anthropology and Archaeology of Image Laboratory, Federal University of Western Pará, UFOPA )) has taken up his British Academy-funded Visiting Fellowship at the Institute of Archaeology from May-November 2023, allowing him to pursue his research on 'Rock Art Inter-Ontologies: Ethnography and Digital Safeguarding of Kumuã Knowledge on Petroglyph Sacred Places in Northwest Amazonia'.

Four men standing (two holding camera equipment) and one kneeling in front of a large rock and forested landscape

Up to late July, Raoni has focused on transcribing and translating the source materials of his project. These consist of video-recordings of Indigenous ritual specialists from the Upper Negro River, Northwest Amazonia, with whom he has analyzed petroglyph sacred sites in that region, shaping a rich archive-material recorded over his previous fieldwork seasons in 2016 and 2017.

Three men in a cave location with rock art in teh background, one man holding a video camera and interviewing the other men
Rock art in a cave in a forested location

In August, he conducted new fieldwork to gather photogrammetric and complementary ethnographic data from Myriaporawi cave, a sacred rock art site in the Middle Tiquie River, Upper Negro basin, working closely with his Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborators.

He returned to London in late August, bringing with him his main Indigenous interlocutor and research partner, Ivan Barreto Tukano (Bahserikowi - Indigenous Medicine Center), who stayed in the UK during the first half of September for an ethnographic documentation training week in the British Museum as a follow-on activity of Raoni's project. Mr Barreto has also helped with translations and with the culturally sensitive analysis of the photogrammetric 3D model of the sacred place, recently generated, with support from GEENG - Geodesy Applied to Engineering Laboratory, Federal University of Paraná, UFPR.  

Two men seated, working in front of computer screens in a Photographic Lab/studio

The preliminary analysis of this unprecedented 3D documentation took place in the UCL Photographic Laboratory with the assistance of Antonio Reis and Manuel Arroyo-Kalin. Now, Raoni is conducting a preliminary systematization of his last fieldwork data whilst keeping the painstaking process of transcribing and translating his previous recordings. He will be working at the Institute of Archaeology until mid-November.

The British Academy’s Visiting Fellowships programme provides outstanding academics based in any country overseas with the opportunity to be based at a UK higher education or other research institution and illustrates the British Academy’s profound and on-going commitment to international engagement.


Images (all R. Valle, 2023): 

  • Top: Project fieldwork team (from left to right standing): Speleologist and photogrammetrist Paulo Simões  (UFPR - GEENG), Ritual Specialist (Kumu) Tarcisio Barreto Tukano, Ritual Specialist (Assistant Kumu) Roberval Pereira Tukano, Indigenous researcher Ivan Barreto Tukano. Lowered: Dr Raoni Valle (PI) 
  • Middle: (Left) Rock art Bahsese ritual and Indigenous ethnographic recording in action. On screen: Kumu Tarcisio Tukano, assistant Kumu Roberval Tukano, and video-ethnographer Ivan Tukano; (Right) Petroglyphs at Myriaporawi cave 
  • Bottom: Project Indigenous co-researcher, Mr Ivan Tukano, analyses the 3D model in the Institute of Archaeology's Photography Laboratory with Antonio Reis