43 – from the zoo to Miraflores

We can see a thousand years of history in a walk through modern day Lima. The present day zoo houses not only exotic animals but constructions spanning 1500 years. From the truncated pyramids of the Lima people and the adobe mounds of the Ychsma through to the late additions of the Inca. Then the Spanish built a house on top of one of the pyramids. There is nothing unique about the grounds of the zoo, because modern Lima is still dotted with such sites, although only a fraction remains of the rich civilisations that previously lived, worked and worshipped here.

If we exit the zoo at Parque de Las Leyendas and walk round the high back end of the Huaca Tres Palos where the 98 posts were possibly used to track the motions of the sun and stars, we can walk up a modern road that separates the grounds of the zoo from the grounds of Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, more usually known simply as Catolica or PUCP. When we reach the eastern end of the huaca, we are at its front, the lower end where an access ramp leads to the storage and administrative structures on top. And leading towards this access ramp from the south is a fantastically preserved stretch of road running through the university campus.


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42 – A trip to the zoo

the 20 metre high 200 metre long and 180 metre wide Huaca Tres Palos, in the background, behind the llamas and alpacas grazing in Lima Zoo.

An understanding of the pre-colonial history of Lima and the surrounding valleys starts with a trip to the zoo in the San Miguel district of Lima. Until the 1940s this was rural farmland on the outskirts of Lima. But rising above the farmland were dozens of mounds that would not grow crops.

The largest were hundreds of metres long and wide, and 30 metres high. Some of these were truncated pyramids built by the Lima people, who occupied the site from 300 to 800 PE, Present Era. Later, around 1000 PE, the Ychsma people built their own ceremonial mounds, plazas and storerooms closer to the sea.  Besides the temples and palaces there was a  town of residences and workshops, Maranga, a settlement surrounded by walls and with canals bringing water from the Rimac. When the Incas came to the coast, they tidied up and re-organised, adding their buildings.

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001 – Introduction

The writings on this site are like the beggining of the solution of a jigsaw puzzle. There may be areas where the picture begins to emerge, a branch of the tree or some roots, but it is unlikely that you will perceive the whole tree. The picture is not ready to display, but you are welcome to browse through and see if you can discern any patterns.

Unlike a jigsaw there is no colourful image on the box lid to guide me, and so how the constituent pieces will eventually combine is still unknown. This site is the big scrubbed table where I am laying out the pieces.

Nevertheless for those that wish to poke around here, there are some clues. The numberings suggest how sections may combine, so that an important branch on the presence of llamas, or camelids, on the stones and in the history of the people’s here, is almost complete (08 – 09 – 10 – 11).

As is  Tumis and Tupus (14 – 15 – 16 – 17 – 18)

I describe the different peoples and settlements in Lima, from Maranga (42 – a Trip to the Zoo),  moving across the city to one of the largest temple mounds in the tourist district (43 –  From the Zoo to Miraflores) and then out to Pachacamac (44 – Earth Mover, Earth Shaker) and south of Lima, the lower Lurin Valley (65 – Cardal and Pan)

The central coast history and rock art are described around Cañete (20 The Sword and the Cross – 21 The Hill of Gold – 22 The evolution of Whales)

And the rocks of Huancor (2627)

There is a first introduction to the remarkable sixteenth century origin stories of The Huarochiri Manuscript (28)

Followed by the story of Calango (53545556)

The attempts to understand the different layers of images on the stones, and work towards interpreting and dating them, is ongoing, and some of the ideas so far are here

4 256 Shades of Grey10 Rock Art in Peru – 12 Why are Images Brighter and Darker –  19 – JPEGs 29-Rock Varnish on the Orinoco



And some bits and pieces about other aspects of Peru which are relevant but not fully tied in to the narrative (35 Keeping it in the Family36 Chasing Mobile Phones in Huacho38 Negotiating with the Gods – 97 Water Management, Floods and Huaycos  98 Watering the Desert for a Thousand Years)


To experience what the stones actually show, and their presence in the landscape, here might be a good place to start

1a /The stones and their images

Photograph of the river bank and the stones

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36 – Chasing phones in Huacho

On the corner of the market, two cars stood with their drivers by the side shouting “Vergueta”. I jumped in. Minutes later a cheerful round girl squeezed in beside me with a  box of tinned condensed milk, a sack of oranges, and a much older man. The half hour to Vergueta ran through the edge of town, across the river, and then through irrigated farmland along the Panamericana Central. The older man put his arm round the girl and she whispered and giggled throughout the journey.

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55 – Return to Calango Again – Part Deux

After searching for, but failing to find, the stone marked with St Thomas’ sleeping body described by the seventeenth century sources, I had resolved to return the next day and seek a guide who could get me access across the apple fields to the curious mounds. As it was Saturday I took the chance to ask at the municipal offices if I could look at the stone. The young girl who took the key from her desk drawer and unlocked the iron gate admitted she did not know much about the stone. “But there are explanations on the walls” she said, pointing to six plaques.

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05 – Rock Art in Peru

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60 – Man Hands on Misery to Man – Fujimori Part One (incomplete draft)

Key moments in the seventh most corrupt dictatorship in recent history, or as his supporters say, the reign of “the Greatest President Peru has Ever Had”.

Currently less than half way through his 25 year jail term for running death squads and corruption.

Oops!!! 24 December 2017 currently pardoned and freed on medical grounds because of terminal illness, people are discussing whether he will stand for President in 2021.

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61 – It Deepens Like a Coastal Shelf -Fujimori Part Two (draft)

Countdown to an uncertain future September 2016 to December 2017

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01 – Piedras de Mala

There are hundreds of rocks by the riverside at  Chincheros, but only the “blue” rocks are engraved. And it seems that all the blue rocks, large and small, have some engraving. The area is at once a large open space where people could gather, and a theatrical venue, seen here from the other side of the river, which for more than half the year would be impossible to cross.

These photos show the landscape and the stones within it.

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54 – Return to Calango

It is clear from Antonio de la Calancha’s account that there are, or were, three marked stones close to Calango.

The community had a consistent story of how the marks had been made by a mythical Christian preacher “…a tall bearded white man…” who had travelled through the area.

All three stones  were honoured in the district. “The people greatly valued these three rocks, and built shelters of branches over them, out of respect.”

One stone is imprisoned behind walls which hide the mountains, with an iron door which the mayor may unlock, on request, on Wednesdays or Saturdays. Where are the other two?

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10 – How many llamas make a train?

If we are to attempt to understand the depiction of llamas or camelids on the Mala stones, we have to know more about how llamas and humans work together, or worked together. Fortunately, whilst many of the scenes on the stones may be forever undecipherable, men and llamas work together still every day in the Andes.

In 2007 A PhD student from UC Berkeley joined a llama caravan for 14
days in order to get a feeling for how they travelled and what insight
it could give to understanding the archaeological record of tracks,
and the sprit of historic transport in the Andes. Llamas are still
widely used in the region, the Cotahuasi canyon in the Arequipa region
of Southern Peru, to transport goods.

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16 – Varayoks and the Staff God

Proponents of the Cochineros images as primarily representing Inca aggression point to figures which could suggest ritual sacrifice. There are several human figures on the stones of Chincheros with objects which some have considered tumis, sometimes holding llamas by a cord in the other hand. These have been interpreted as priests preparing for divination, the ritual sacrifice of a llama and the examination of its entrails to predict the future.

A dominant image on the southern, down river face of the Retama rock. First impression suggest a frontal human figure holding objects in either hand. But what is the complex figure in the left hand, and is the right arm actully visible?

The procedure is well known from several sources. Garcilaso de la Vega, the son of an Inca princess and a Spanish conquistador, describes the divinations at Inti Raimi, the most important of Cuzco´s four annual festivals, the June Summer Solstice.

“The priests brought in the animals to be sacrificed, which were lambs, rams and sterile ewes. The first animal sacrificed was either a black or dark brown lamb, these being considered…entirely pure and unmixed. They looked for omens by examining the heart and lung of this lamb, as they did in all important circumstances…Three or four men held the animal with its head turned towards the east…they then slit it open on its left flank…and the priest took out the heart, lungs, and all the interior organs, taking sure that they should be in one piece, without being torn…they would blow air into the viscera, then…watch the way the air filled…the lungs even unto the tiniest vessels…the sacrifice of the lamb, if it did not give good omens, was followed by that of the sheep and lastly, that of the sterile ewe. ”

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17 – Tupus from Lurin to Yauyos

There is a similar complexity to the positions of tupus, shawl pins, in South American history and pre-history. Long pins are seen on the engravings of Guaman Pomar de Ayala, a native Peruvian born shortly after the Spanish invasion of the Inca Empire, in his manuscript, Nueva corónica y buen gobierno, completed in 1615, notably in the portrait of Cuci Chinbo Mama the sixth Coya, or wife, of the Inca Yupanqui.

Woman with a similar single pin placed horizontally with the head to the right are placed in scenes of the Inca hailing the start of the new solar year, planting the first seeds in August, and worshipping at the 400 metre high peak of Wanakari, amongst others. These pins have a variety of designs at the head.

Another Guaman Poma drawing of Coya Mama Huaco shows her wearing two round-headed pins, placed with round heads down, with holes poitioned between the centre of the head, and the start of the pin. This lady was the mother (or sister-wife) of Manco Capac, the first Inca wife, who sowed the first maize, taught women the art of weaving, and made stones and boulders speak. She was the daughter of the sun and the moon, and there are road in Lima named after her.


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04 – 256 Shades of Grey

Checta is one of the largest rock art sites in Peru, on a gentle hillside overlooking the valley of the river Chillon, a few hours from Lima. There is a small roadside sign, and you follow a steep rocky footpath up over a bank of stone before it levels along a ridge to where a field of boulders, large and small, occupies a terrace between the upper hillside and a dry ravine.

Dozens or hundreds of small boulders hold one or two designs, mostly abstract, crudely drawn on reddish brown rocks.There are however three great black rocks, a little apart. These have a multitude of cupules, round depressions in the rock, whilst the others are pecked to change the colour of the surface. This one variable, the manner of production. serves to distinguish between them. But they are different in so many more ways. The rock type used is different, hard, black and polished; the markings are deep and smoothed; the images are almost entirely circles and curving lines; the images face upwards towards the sky; the stones are massive; and the three stones are positioned some way from the rest of the group.

one of Checta´s three cupule rocks 2 metres long,

These three are outliers according to all these several variables, and very probably more. More simply, these three are powerful and timeless works of art, whereas much at Checta seems more akin to childrens’ crayonings.

Some valleys to the south, by the river Mala, are another series of petroglyphs. The most famous, at Calango, was recorded early when the Spanish authorities found a giant stone, laid flat, facing to the skies, covered in carvings. It is now surrounded by a wall with a padlocked cast iron door, built in 1990. The major keeps the key. What was public is now private. On the internal walls are an unfinished mural celebrating powerful individuals, six men, who had some hand in the recording and destruction of the stone. This is how history is written.


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15 – Tumis and tupus, metalwork or war?

The predominance of T-shape objects which might be knifes or tumis on the Mala petroglyphs could represent a late presence in the use of the Chincheros rock art site. The Ts are generally brighter than other images, often superimposed, and applied on faces of the rock that are duller, greyer, more worn. They are also, the majority, drawn without great care.

If they are a gesture of aggression we might expect to see an association with porras, the stone or bronze mace heads, like star symbols but with a central hole. If they are a symbol of local metalworkers, they might be associated more with the shawl pins, tupus, which are also seen on the rocks, often with a similar level of brightness which might indicate a similar age.

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14 – Inca domination and Tumi sacrifice

There are 600 images at Chincheros, and many of them are unique. If we collate the commonly repeated images – serpent-streams, llamas, spirals, foxes – we still account only for less than half the images seen. There is another image in the form of a T,  which deserve attention if only for its repetition – even more than llamas or camelids as there are more than eighty such images.

Most often straight sided,  sometimes rounded,  at times with a decorative element at the top, This T- or anchor-shaped figure, utterly dominates the top of the most southern rock. It is also seen on the nearby Pariacaca Rock, particularly on the abraded northern face, and on the two smaller rocks close by. There are twenty or more of the symbols on the Rock of the Running Dogs, but as we progress then to the rocks further north, further upstream, it becomes less frequent.

The Rock of the Tumis the first rock seen by travellers moving up the valley, is named for this T shape which may represent a sacrificial knife. The original tumis, made of gold, were used for sacrifice by the Mochica or the Moche, on the northern coast of Peru, some fourteen hundred years before the Incas came to Mala and over seven hundred kilometres north.


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27 Fish in the air

There is a smell of fish and salt in the air in Chincha. It is only 5 km from the sea. Huancor, the site with the stone carvings, is  33 km from the coast in a direct line, just two days journey for a llama caravan.

Archaeological studies in the area show that the valley was inhabited during the four hundred years before the coming of the Inca by the Chincha Kingdom. Chincha (the word means Jaguar) villages, cemeteries, and refuges have been found not only by the coast but through the upper valley territory too.

Broad swaths of the coast at this time were controlled by powerful, politically centralized groups. The Chincha kingdom would have flourished for five hundred years before the Inca influence reached them around 1475 AD.  And the Incas never managed to dominate the Chincha. A small Inca structure at Huaca La Centinela, the coastal ritual centre, hides in the shadow of a much larger Chincha building.

Only a few generations separated an independent Chincha from the Spanish invasion and the founding of Lima in 1535, and the earliest Spanish writers. Pedro Cieza de León’s La crónica del Perú was published in Seville by 1553. Cieza describes the realm of the Chinchas as a “great province, esteemed in ancient times . . .splendid and grand . . . so famous throughout Peru as to be feared by many natives”. Their wealth and power was said to have supported major Chincha incursions into the highlands while the Incas were still consolidating the Cusco region.


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20 The Hill of Gold

Seventy kilometres south of the Rio Mala lies the valley of Cañete. The river, one of the largest on the central coast, comes from Ticllacocha, a lake 220 kilometres inland in the land of the Yauyos, at 4600m metres above sea level.

In the bus I had passed a hillside fortress town with multiple walls, marking the border between the broad irrigated coastal lands and the narrow river valley above. Further up the valley, there were intermittent signs of a historic road clinging to the hillside. And then the bus swings past Incahuasi, a large complex of adobe buildings with obviously Inca characteristics standing above the road.

Lunahuana is more of a village, four blocks wide by three blocks long. Many houses lie in ruins after the earthquake of 2007. It stands on the left bank of the river, high above the irrigated fields. Down by the river bank, in the summer, groups of spray soaked students  land their inflatable rafts, after shooting the rapids. A petroglyph had been recently re-discovered here, and the town website showed a tantalising image from the rock, a rodent or a squirrel, beautiful and highly stylised, as if copied from a woven textile.


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21 The sword and the cross

At the first full moon after the autumn equinox I returned to Lunahuana. The water was still too high to cross the Rio Mala, but in this neighbouring valley, I could take another look at the giant boulder in the field beneath the zip wire.

The coming Monday would be a holiday and thousands of tourists had headed to the town for the long weekend of white water rafting and zip-lining, eating in the town’s several restaurants, and drinking pisco sours at the makeshift bars set up at the side of the pretty central square with its bandstand, flowering trees, and ornate cast iron street lamps.

On the street two women wearing red and black chequered cloth tied at the waist with a woven belt were selling vegetables. This was the clothing of communities in Yauyos, inland to the East, mountainous and remote, now a protected reserve, where a few hundred people still speak a rare and ancient indigenous language, wear giant silver tupus, ornamental pins, to fasten their shawls, and .

“How far have you travelled?” I asked.

“Three hours, from Catahuasi” they told me.

I bought a matured cheese “a week old, and it will be good for another week” and a bag of small dark avocados.

“One day I will come and visit Catahuasi” I told them.

“Come on a Sunday. We will be at home then”.


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22 The evolution of whales

“Museum of Palaeontology and Archaeology” said the card, written in green ink and taped to the lamp post. The arrows pointed to the left and I followed them, past the quad bikes and canoes, the carcases of pork, and round the corner to a vacant church hall.

The museum was a travelling exhibition, maps pinned on boards to show the movement of the continental plates from Pangaia to the formation of the Americas, the evolution of life from amino acids to bacteria to marine life, and an array of plaster models showing the evolution of whales.

The world´s greatest marine fossil site is just 150 km south or here, in the Occucaje desert where whales and sharks, crocodiles and turtles, evolved in shallow seas for tens of million years.

They included whales with a single line of teeth down the centre of the palate, whales with hundreds of teeth not in a line but in a grid, like a crushing machine, and the first whales who had no teeth at all but bare bone, an extension of the skull, shaped to make a pair of scissors between the upper and lower jaw.


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