The tradition of mobile art, or rock art, refers to drawings painted on mobile or transportable objects, such as slabs of rock, ceramic plates and carved stones.
It is recognized worldwide that rock art forms an important part of humanity’s cultural history. It has been found in almost every country in the world and it shows the universal creation and growth of mankind and one of the first manifestations of human capability.
Peru shares a richness and extraordinary abundance of these manifestations of rock art with its neighbors, Chile and Bolivia, in the forms of petroglyphs and rock paintings. In the 20th Century there has been a greater interest in studying them to understand their importance.
With tourism growing steadily since the early 1990s, the Peruvian government, often supported by the National Institute of Culture, has begun to integrate some of the more impressive rock art sites into their various tourist circuits as cultural attractions, converting them into publicly known and visited places.
The manifestations of rock art, whatever kind they are, are extremely vulnerable and can easily be destroyed by natural causes or through human actions. There are many sites that have been ruined in the past few decades because of people not being cautious, whether through ignorance, unawareness, vandalism or greed, making those sites the most affected and in the most danger of disappearing. What’s worse is that a grand part of this cultural and artistic history is being lost forever, and with it the opportunity to copy down information about the sites, such as their location, content, formal and typological aspects, chronology and context.
Petroglyphs are drawings that have been carved or incised on rock, often found on rock shelters, large flat pieces or singular, isolated blocks. Geoglyphs are recognized as large figures drawn over an open space and are either lighter or darker than the rock itself, sometimes creating a negative image on the rock face.
When discussing rock art and petroglyphs one must consider not only the pre-Columbian works, but also those that date back to the colonial and republican eras. Oftentimes you will find drawings from different time periods on the same panel or at the same site.
Toro Muerto Petroglyphs
Toro Muerto was discovered for science in 1951 by Linares Málaga, who not only discovered many petroglyphs but also registered many of the geoglyphs in the area.
Location: In the wide, dry uneven desert area of the river valley Majes you will find Toro Muerto. The flood plain, also called Pampa Blanca, is where the petroglyphs are located, which occupy an area of 568,698 m (1,865,807 ft) squared, and are 3.8 km (2.36 mi)long and 275 m (902 ft) wide, with 5000 thousand rocks and crags of different sizes, all containing petroglyphs. Pampa Blanca is between 600 and 800 meters (1,970 and 2,625 feet) above sea level.
There exists a variety of different figures, but the most important are: men represented with trophy-shaped heads or having had their head cut off, men with extremely giant hands or men with their head shaped like a sun; camelids in pens, birds, eagles, falcons and condors, resting or at flight; trees, branches, flowers and more.
Manto Cave Paintings
Location: Between the Lares and Amparaes rivers, where the Yanatile river begins.
Manto 1: A rocky wall on the left bank of the Amparaes River at Km. 79 along the Cuzco-Amparaes-Yanatile road, with red paintings representing scenes of people with tunics and headdresses with their arms raised and standing in circles, a geometric figure (square with a point in the center), a snake that crosses the entire panel in a oval and from whose mouth you can see the tail of a monkey.
PUSHARO, The Myth of Paititi
Location: On the right-hand side of the PalotoaRiver along the tributary that leads to the AltoMadre de DiosRiver, in the Pantiacolla belt within the ManuNational Park, at 455 meters (1,493 feet) above sea level.
Conservation Level: The petroglyphs at the base of the cliff have been eroded by river water, which covers the drawings during the rainy season. Some of the art was made using carbon.
At the base of a rocky cliff (which is formed by exquisite metamorphic rock) you will find petroglyphs of more than 275 different objects, including geometric shapes (wavy lines, double spirals, single and concentric circles, rhombi), human figures (faces), snakes and jaguar heads.
The Pusharo petroglyphs are characterized by their massive size and the overall use of circles and curved lines. One can speak of a curved line geometric style that typifies the rock art of the Amazon basin.