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Pinturas Rupestres of Amazonas

Circles within circles. Men with alpacas. Are they suns? Are they hunting? To this day we don’t know what the ancient peoples of Amazonas region were saying with the thousands of petrographs, or pinturas rupestres that adorn their burial sites. According to archaeologist Klaus Koschmieder, 60-70% have paintings. Huaqueros (looters) often identify grave locations by them. Only three sites—Sonche, Yamón and Tambolik—are not associated with sarcophagi or chullpas.

Some guides claim the petrographs are 20,000-40,000 years old. However, radiocarbon dating of remains associated with the sites reveal that none are older than 4,000 years; most archaeologists believe they are from the Chachapoya period (1000-1500 A.D.). Whether the pigments’ origins are vegetative or mineral haven’t yet been determined. The colors—red, yellow, vermillion, white, black—are strikingly the same as the surrounding countryside’s rock.

Koschmieder says it was their greatest cultural expression. When you go to Chanqui, YamĂłn or any of the dozens of other pinturas rupestres-decorated sites, you can ponder a streaming-tailed sun, upon the red-plumaged birds singing a song frozen in the ages. Were these artists telling the life history of their dearly departed? Were they relating the latest events? Or were they contemporary Chachapoya artists at their best?

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

12 Jul 2007

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