The case of panel 3-Bloque 69 - Ariquilda-1, Chile
In 1996 Gustavo Espinosa, then archaeologist at the Departamento
de Arqueología y Museología of the Universidad
de Tarapacá, Arica, Chile, published an interesting report on a specific
scene on Panel 3 of Bloque 69 at Ariquilda-1 (Panel and Bloque in italics are
Spanish terms); an extensive and important petroglyph site in the Quebrada de
Aroma in the north of Chile. In his paper Espinosa attempted to interpret a
rock art ‘scene’ in which he explored the relationship between images of the
‘musician fox’ (Lari) and the ‘frog’ (Jamp’atu - see the Note at the end of this paper). He proposed that ‘this scene is a symbolic representation
which functioned as a symbol for rainmaking’ (1996: 133). However, having
surveyed the site and this specific panel in particular, I have a number of
reservations and observations that question the hypothesis put forward by
Espinosa. My hesitations are based on several aspects of the images involved:
the factual lay-out of the petroglyphs, the graphical context and their geographical
location described in his paper. But before dealing with those issues, it will
be necessary to describe the site in more detail.
name of this petroglyph site is Ariquilda-1, which is found in the middle
reaches of the Quebrada de Aroma, a mostly dry river that intermittently
transports mainly run-off water from the higher mountains around the Cerro Tata
Jachura (5340 m O.D., indicated by the cross in Figure 3). This volcano is also
called Jachur Mallku or Tata Jachura de Chiapa and is located
only about 40 km ENE of the site, but invisible from Bloque 69. From several other points in the canyon however this
volcano is visible (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Quebrada de Aroma, looking east towards
the Tata Jachura in the distance (yellow arrow).
Photograph by Maarten van
geomorphology of the area can be divided into six regions. Bordering the
Pacific Ocean is a very narrow, sometimes even absent, coastal strip (Planicie Litoral - green in Figure 2).
Then, very abruptly, follows a coastal mountain range (Cordillera de la Costa - 2 in Figure 2) which creates a vast inland
basin (Pampa de Tamarugal - 3).
Ariquilda, about 75 km inland, is situated on a slight sloping plane (Plano Inclinado - 4) that is cut by
canyons that run from east to west. Further east are the mainly volcanic
mountain range (Precordillera de los
Andes - 5) and the Andes with the High Plains (Altiplanico - 6).
Figure 2. Map of the simplified geomorphology of
northern Chile. Explanation in the text. Scale 25 km.
Drawing by Maarten van
The water that occasionally flows through the canyon runs SW
towards the vast expanses of the flat and monotonous Pampa del Tamarugal (3 in
Figure 2). At about 1250 m O.D. the river peters out in the Pampa and as the
water is almost instantly absorbed by the loose soils of the Pampa and
simultaneously evaporates in the extremely dry climate, the waters of this
river system never reach the Pacific Ocean. The Quebrada de Aroma, like many
other river systems in this part of Chile, forms an endorheic drainage basin
(an inland river system that does not drain to an ocean). However, during very
wet times, this run-off water may cause inundations and destruction as far as
the village of Huara, 52 km SW of Bloque 69. Yet, it is important to mention that in the area itself it hardly ever rains, as it is situated in the heart of the
Atacama Desert, the driest desert on earth.
Figure 3. Relief and rock art sites around
Ariquilda-1. Yellow frame: Ariquilda-1; yellow squares: other rock art sites;
all other squares: geoglyph sites. Scale 10 km.Drawing by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth Maps.
Despite the harsh climate, here are many archaeological remains in the area. I only give a summary of the most important sites (Figure 3). No more than 8.5 km to the west of Ariquilda-1 is Altos de Ariquilda Norte (at 1810 m O.D.), an important geoglyph site, located on the flat expanse of the Plano Inclinado. About 30 km north are the rock art sites (petroglyphs and rock paintings) of Camiña (not shown in Figure 3); 30 km ESE are the petroglyph sites of Parcollo and Chuzmisa (or Chusmisa); 26 km SSE are at least two petroglyph sites at Pachica (TR-1304 and TR-1305); 34 km south is the important petroglyph site of Tarapacá-47, while in the immediate neighbourhood of Tarapacá-47 several geoglyph sites have been reported, the best known geoglyph being the Gigante del Atacama on the west facing slopes of Cerro Unitas, 40 km SSW of Ariquilda-1; about 45 km SE is a concentration of geoglyphs called Aura del Sol. Roughly 75 km to the NNW are the rock art sites of Taltape, Huancarane and Pampanune in the Camarones Valley (not shown in Figure 3). The petroglyph sites of Tarapacá-47 and Huancarane-1 are important in the scope of this review. Finally, in 1981, Johan Reinhard (2002) reported ‘an important site of probable Inca origin, on the summit of Tata Jachura’, one of the most important mountains in a large area. The visibility of this distant volcano may well have been one of the reasons to create such an extensive rock art site in this canyon (and, of course, the presence of suitable rocks).
the Quebrada de Tarapacá is literally teeming with archaeological remains (see
Google Earth), the Quebrada de Aroma seems to generally lack these testimonies
from the past. Espinosa (1996: 150) gives a possible
explanation for this deficiency when he writes that Quebrada de Aroma actually
means ‘Canyon of the Acid Waters’ (he argues that the word Aroma has been
derived from the Aymara word ‘Jaruma’,
which means ‘agua agria’; sour
water). It is a fact that rivers in endorheic drainages
carry water that is often rather saline, but whether this salinity also
includes acidity or has been taken for acidity is unknown to me.
his theory about the deficiency of settlement remains is the
fact that Espinosa (1996:134) mentions the occurrence of a temporary human
settlement ‘to the west of the petroglyphs’. Unfortunately, he
did not state an age for this pre-Columbian settlement, nor does he mention how
far west this settlement is found. Moreover, with Google Earth there are at
least two small (abandoned?) agricultural field-systems visible; one is located
about 3 km east (upstream) of Bloque 69 and the other 2.5 km to the west, while also several small ruins are visible
on the south slopes between Bloque 69
and the agricultural field-system to the west. It is unknown to me what dates
these remains have, but it seems to indicate that the purported acidity never
existed, was either a temporary property or never a serious problem. Perhaps the name was once given by people who used the word ‘Jaruma’ to indicate salinity long after the era of petroglyph
production, as we will never know how the manufacturers of the petroglyphs
called ‘their’ canyon. It is even possible that the name
‘Aroma’ refers to something else entirely different. The English, Dutch,
German, Italian and Spanish languages all use the same word ‘aroma’ to refer to
a certain scent.
At the point
where the stream finally peters out there is only a narrow and very shallow
gully. However, going upstream the gully gradually changes into a deep and wide
canyon. At first only a grey type of crumbly stone (rather unsuitable for rock
art production) forms the slopes of the valley, but at a certain point rather
steep cliffs of solid volcanic stone, interspersed with layers of softer
deposits, appear and also the colour of the rock changes. Mainly
yellow-red-orange cliff panels and boulders line the valley floor (Figure 4).
This first (western) part of this more colourful section of the valley, an area
which stretches upstream roughly 1500 m from SW to NE, is the zone where
petroglyphs are found. Hundreds of those cliff panels and several boulders on
both sides of the valley have been used for petroglyph production. In many
cases petroglyphs are found at rather high, inaccessible spots. As far as I know
Ariquilda-1 is the only petroglyph site in this canyon.
Figure 4. View from Bloque 69, looking SW. Photograph by Maarten van Hoek.
Espinosa (1996: Fig. 2) indicates relief with 1 m interval contour lines in his
sketch-plan of the canyon, these contours only apply for the valley floor. Moreover, he does not indicate
the factual altitude of the area in this sketch, nor does he mention the
altitude at Bloque 69. Yet he states
that ‘the site’ is at 2000 m O.D. (1996: 134). As the area in his sketch is
roughly 2 km in length, this is a little vague, also because, according to
Google Earth, nowhere in this section of the canyon the valley floor actually reaches 2000 m. On the
other hand, the rim of the Pampa (the Plano Inclinado, rather), starting at
about 1.6 km south of Panel 69, is at
2122 m O.D., while the more distant (3.5 km) northern rim is at 2170 m O.D.
(all altitudes based on Google Earth), but those are not the spots where the petroglyphs
Figure 5. The area near Bloque 69. Scale 25 m.
Drawing by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth
front of Bloque 69 the valley floor
(A in Figures 5 and 6) is at 1725 m (all altitudes based on Google Earth),
while, at this point, the canyon is 165 m wide (Figure 5). Going towards Bloque 69 one first encounters an old,
level river terrace (B in Figure 6) (cut by a shallow gully) at about 1730 m
and only then follows the first part of the actual hill; a steep slope of dark
outcrop stone (C in Figure 6), much fragmented and estimated by me to rise from
1730 to 1737 m in front of Bloque 69.
At the base of the vertical petroglyph panels, thus at 1737 m, is a narrow
ledge, large enough to stand on. This means that the roughly 3 m high and
vertical Panel 3 of Bloque 69 is located at about 1740 m
O.D., while the steep cliff continues much higher further to the SE. Moreover,
the position of Bloque 69 as
indicated by Espinosa in his Fig. 2 is inaccurate as it seems to suggest that
it is located about 60 m SE of the valley floor, while in fact Panel 3, which faces NW, is located only
about 5 m SE of the old river terrace and roughly 25 m from the recent valley
Figure 6. Area in front of Bloque 69 (not visible). Photograph by Maarten van Hoek.
Before I will
discuss the issues involved in the interpretation by Espinosa it must be
clarified that the Spanish word Bloque in the survey by Espinosa actually means ‘a group of rock art panels’, and not
a ‘boulder with several panels’. Such a Bloque may include several outcrop panels (vertical or sloping cliff surfaces), but
also loose or earth-fast boulders. Even the word ‘Panel’ is somewhat ambiguous as for instance Panel 3 of Bloque 69 may
be divided into two panels, separated by a horizontal crack. However, this will
be ignored here.
Issue 1: the lay-out of the images
of Espinosa of rain-making symbolism and ‘inversion’ are primarily based on the
interpretation of a group of four petroglyph ‘scenes’ on the lower, accessible
part of Panel 3 of Bloque 69. Importantly, if the drawings he presents in his
article are incorrect, then his interpretations and consequently his hypothesis
lose credibility as well. Therefore I will first examine ‘his’ drawings of the
petroglyphs (1996: Figs. 3 and 4). As Espinosa gives no source for these two
drawings (nor in the captions, or in the acknowledgements), it is unknown to me
if Espinosa made those drawings himself on the spot or from (his own?)
photographs, or that he used the photographs and/or drawings now stored at the Universidad de Tarapacá, in Arica that
have been made by other researchers as part of the Proyecto FONDECYT 1940949.
after careful scanning of my own photographic material, I must conclude that
‘his’ two drawings (rough sketches, rather) are rather inaccurate regarding
several aspects. First of all, it may escape the uninformed reader of the
article by Espinosa that almost every ‘outlined’ petroglyph in ‘his’ drawings
(Figs 3 and 4) is actually fully pecked, because any explanation is lacking. Also the largest camelid is in fact
fully pecked, despite the addition of five long, Y-shaped grooves onto its
laterally depicted, fully pecked body (drawn in outline by Espinosa, though).
Secondly, although Espinosa mentions that 43 petroglyphs have been recorded on
the panel, several images are missing in ‘his’ drawing of Panel 3 (1996: Fig. 3). Thirdly, several of the individual images
are either incompletely drawn or even incorrectly drawn. Finally, the overall
lay-out of ‘his’ drawing is inaccurate which means that the position of every
image is not accurately pinpointed. For instance the head of ‘petroglifo 8’ in ‘his’ Fig. 3 in fact
almost touches the unnumbered ‘snake’ petroglyph. I regard all these details to
be very important, especially as, scientifically speaking, a solid hypothesis
can never be based on (a series of) inaccuracies. It must be based on facts.
Espinosa admits that the petroglyphs of Panel 3 (Figure 7) are worn and moreover acknowledges the uncertain nature of some
images he still interprets the relevant biomorphic images on Panel 3 as ‘foxes’ and ‘frogs’. He also
argues that both the technique used to manufacture the images and the
weathering of the panel are homogeneous. However, there are several petroglyphs
that have either been manufactured more superficially or have weathered
(patinated) more deeply, and in my opinion this may indicate that not all
images have been created at the same time or by the same ‘hand’.
Figure 7. Part of panel 3 - Bloque 69 at Ariquilda-1, northern Chile.
Photograph by Maarten van Hoek.
Figure 8. The four ‘Unidades’ on Panel 3 - Bloque 69. No scale available.
Drawing by Maarten van Hoek, based on the inaccurate sketch by Espinosa (1996: Fig. 4.).
From now on I
mainly concentrate on the petroglyphs on which Espinosa bases his hypotheses.
Espinosa refers to these petroglyphs as Units (Unidades) 1, 2, 3 and 4. Rather inconsistently he numbered the two petroglyphs of his Unit 1 as two separate petroglyphs (8 and 9), while
the two petroglyphs of Unit 2 have
been numbered together as 13 (1996:
Fig. 3). In my opinion twelve petroglyphs/elements
are directly involved in this discussion. These elements have been assigned an
individual number-letter combination in Figure 8. Unit 1 has two biomorphic
images (A and B in Figure 8); Unit 2 has three petroglyphs (A, B and D in
Figure 8); Unit 3 has four elements (A, B, C and D in Figure 8), while Unit 4
has three elements (A, B and C in Figure 8). Each Unit will be discussed now,
repeating the number-letter combination of each element for easy reference.
UNIT 1 - Figure 9
The drawing of
Unit 1 by Espinosa (1996: Fig 4) is different in several aspects. First of all,
Espinosa states that the ‘fox’ (1A in Figure 8) has big ears (largas orejas - plural). Although it is
more likely that indeed only one backward curving appendage emerges from the top of the head of this biomorph,
the area around the head is so much weathered that the exact layout remains
uncertain. More serious is the following misinterpretation. Espinosa notably
states that in front of the ‘fox’ there is a ‘frog’ (1B). Having scanned
element 1B in situ and the (digitally
enhanced) photographs of this much weathered figure several times, I can only
conclude that a ‘frog’ has not been
depicted. At best it may be an anthropomorph in possibly the same frontal style
as other similar figures at Ariquilda-1. Therefore, Espinosa’s suggestion that
it represents a ‘jumping frog’ seems to be incorrect. Last but not least, the
‘fox’ and the ‘frog’ have been incorrectly placed in the drawing by Espinosa as
the ‘fox’ almost touches the ‘snake’ petroglyph (5 in Figure 8) with its head
and with the end of the ‘flute’. It may therefore be possible that the ‘fox’ is
‘addressing’ the ‘snake’, rather than the biomorph in front of the ‘fox’.
Figure 9. Unit 1 on Panel 3. Scale: height of “flute-player” is about 17 cm. Variations in shading only serve to separate the several elements and do not necessarily indicate differences in patination and/or used techniques. Drawing and photograph by Maarten van Hoek..
UNIT 2 - Figure 10
actually comprise three petroglyphs. The ‘fox’ (2A in Figure 8) more clearly
has just one long, backward curving
appendage and holds what seems to be a ‘flute’ with two tubes. The ‘frog’ (2B)
more clearly seems to be a ‘frog’, but seems to be superimposed upon a third
petroglyph (2D) of uncertain character. Because of the weathered condition of
the rock it is almost impossible to separate petroglyphs 2B and 2D. But this
superimposition may imply that the ´frog´ is a later addition. Espinosa already
observed that the ‘fox’ is hovering quite a distance over the ‘frog’.
Therefore, like at Unit 1, the ‘fox’ not necessarily is associated with the
‘frog’, but ‘simply playing a wind instrument’ like many other figures at this
Figure 10. Unit 2 on Panel 3. Scale: “flute-player” is about 15 cm high. Variations in shading only serve to separate the several elements and do not necessarily indicate differences in patination and/or used techniques. Drawing and photograph by Maarten van Hoek..
UNIT 3 - Figure 11
Unit 3 is
special for two reasons. I consider this unit to have four elements: the ‘fox’
(3A), again with again only one appendage from the head (and contrary to the remarks by Espinosa, the ‘flute’ is visible); the very distinct ‘frog’
(3B); the circular groove enclosing these two biomorphs (3C); and finally the
large, fully pecked ‘camelid’ petroglyph (3D) with two back legs instead of the one leg drawn by Espinosa. Firstly, it
is remarkable that the two biomorphs are enclosed by a circular groove. This
seems to imply that the two biomorphs are indeed linked (but this does not
imply contemporaneity). Secondly, there is something very strange about the
‘camelid’. It has no ‘normal’ rear end and no real ‘tail’, and I cannot
remember to have seen anything similar in Andean rock art. The whole rear end
intimately merges with the circular groove and it seems that this has been done
on purpose, especially as the difference between the techniques to produce the
circular groove and the fully pecked ‘camelid’ is rather clearly visible.
Moreover, there is no sign of the rear end of the ‘camelid’ inside the circular groove, which seems
to exclude an instance of superimposition. All these facts seem to suggest that
the ‘camelid’ is a later addition. Likewise, the ‘frog’ and the circle may have been manufactured later than the ‘fox’.
Figure 11. Unit 3 on Panel 3. Scale: ring is 23 cm across. Variations in shading only serve to separate the several elements and do not necessarily indicate differences in patination and/or used techniques. Drawing and photograph by Maarten van Hoek..
UNIT 4 - Figure 12
Unit 4 seems to be a horizontal mirror image of Unit 3 (excluding the ‘camelid’), or, as Espinosa puts it, Unit
4 has been depicted the way it would appear when Unit 3 would have been
reflected in a pool of water in front of the panel (but only when viewed from the
panel). The ‘frog’ petroglyph (4B) is rather distinct. The circular groove (4C)
is not complete (partially because of
natural features of the rock) and more poorly executed. Again, the ‘fox’ (4A)
has only one appendage.
Figure 12. Unit 4 on Panel 3. Scale: ring is roughly 22 cm. across. Variations in shading only serve to separate the several elements and do not necessarily indicate differences in patination and/or used techniques. Drawing and photograph by Maarten van Hoek.
Finally it must
be mentioned that two more possible ‘frog’ petroglyphs are present on Panel 3 of Bloque 69. Above the ‘foxes’ is a possible amphibian figure with a
long, arrow-shaped tail, while at the extreme right of the panel is another
possible ‘frog’ petroglyph, similar to the ones near the ‘foxes’. Also on
adjacent Panel 2 of Bloque 69 is a comparable ‘frog’
petroglyph, while several other panels at Ariquilda feature ‘frog’ petroglyphs,
but - as far as I know - none of those ‘frogs’ is directly associated with
Issue 2: graphical context
It is uncertain
to me if indeed Espinosa himself has actually visited all the petroglyph sites
of Huancarane-1 (not visited by me), Ariquilda-1 and Tarapacá-47. The main reasons for my doubt is the fact that he
twice states (1996: 137 and 153) that the four ‘fox-frog’ combinations on Panel 3 of Bloque 69 are unique in
the rock art repertoire of northern Chile. He states that he does not know of a
similar combination at Ariquilda-1 or any other rock art site in northern
Chile. Yet he graphically compares the images of Bloque 69 with two petroglyphs from other rock art sites, notably
with Huancarane-1 and Tarapacá-47 (1996: Fig. 6). Unfortunately, all the
drawings in his Fig. 6 have been printed mirror-wise, which once caused
confusion when referring to this Fig. 6 (Van Hoek 2005: Fig. 9). Fig. 6a
actually is a petroglyph from Tarapacá-47 (also incorrectly labelled as Ariquilda-1 by Chacama & Briones
1996: Fig. 2), while Fig. 6b is from Huancarane-1 (and not the other way
around) and both should be mirrored
The reason to
doubt if Espinosa has actually seen the petroglyph at Tarapacá-47 in the field
is the fact that he apparently reproduced the drawing of Bloque 177 by Núñez
and Briones (1967: Lámina XIV-C), which only illustrates one of the three petroglyphs on this panel; only the ‘fox’. Importantly, as Núñez & Briones
do not illustrate the whole panel
(Figure 13B), it has been overlooked by Espinosa that the ‘zorro músico’ is ‘directing his music’ towards a ‘lizard’ and a ‘frog’. It is even possible that
the ‘lizard’ petroglyph was added at a later stage and that the potential original ‘scene’ involved a ‘fox’ and a
‘frog’ in a similar juxtaposition as the four ‘scenes’ on Bloque 69 at Ariquilda-1. In any case, the ‘scene’ on Bloque 177 at Tarapacá-47 represents a
most important analogy in this discussion, which has (unintentionally and
possibly unknowingly) been overlooked by Espinosa.
Figure 13. A: Detail from Bloque 10 at Huancarane-1 (height of the “flute-player” is about 35 cm). B: Bloque 177 at Tarapacá-47 (height of the “flute-player” is about 15 cm). Drawings by Maarten van Hoek. (A: based on Niemeyer & Schiappacasse 1981: Fig. 13b).
playing fox’ petroglyph on Bloque 10
at Huancarane-1 is not associated with another zoomorph (Figure 13A) and
moreover has been interpreted as a ‘monkey’ (monito) by Niemeyer & Schiappacasse (1981: 74). At Tarapacá-47 at least four examples of ‘zoomorphs playing a wind instrument’
occur. On panel TAR-101 - a panel not illustrated by Núñez & Briones (1968)
and thus I use my own numbering for this site - are at least two zoomorphs of
uncertain species (they might be
‘foxes’) that seem to ‘play the flute’ (a relatively very small ‘flute player’
on the same panel probably is anthropomorphic). A possible example of a ‘flute
playing monkey’ occurs on boulder TAR-045B (Bloque 174 by Núñez & Briones 1968 - but not illustrated by them). On Bloque 161 Núñez & Briones (1968:
Lámina X-B) illustrate a petroglyph of what seems to be another ‘flute-playing
monkey’ (not seen by me). All these examples underscore the fact that Andean
peoples depicted ‘zoomorphs playing a
wind instrument’ (see also Van Hoek 2005 for other examples of ‘biomorphs
playing a wind instrument’ in Andean rock art).
Finally it must
be mentioned that at Ariquilda-1 at least 22 images of ‘flute players’ are
known to me to have been recorded at this site, but none seems to clearly
represent a ‘zoomorph’. However, two of those anthropomorphic ‘flute players’
appear on a small, cave like panel on the north side of the valley (Panel
ARQn-154 - I have used my own ARQ-numbering for the Ariquilda panels, because,
unfortunately, I was never granted access to the official inventory of
Ariquilda stored at the Universidad de
Tarapacá, despite several promises by Juan Chacama of the Universidad de Tarapacá to help me)
where they seem to be associated with ‘fleet’ of five ‘rafts’, all with human
figures using an oar, while at the bottom of the panel is the petroglyph of a
‘frog’, similar to the ones on Panel 3 of Bloque 69. Only a very short
distance to the SW of Panel ARQn-154 is Panel ARQn-155A, which features the
petroglyph of an anthropomorphic 'flute player', which seems to be associated with another anthropomorph (compare with
Unit 1). Espinosa should have mentioned these facts as they provide a
significant graphical context for the alleged ‘scenes’ on Panel 3 of Bloque 69.
Issue 3: the location
argument raised by Espinosa is partially based on the alleged relationship
between the images of ‘music producing instruments’ and running or falling water.
In this respect he writes (1996: 150): ‘el panel con las representaciones estudiadas …. es
parte de una gran formación rocosa que, de acuerdo al desgaste de la piedra, en
épocas de lluvias debe permitir la formación de una pequeña cascada, con una
caída de 6 a 7 metros, aledana al petroglifo estudiado.’
in an earlier publication I have confirmed the general relationship between
running or falling water and the origin of music in Andean mythology (Van Hoek
2005), I have a number of observations that may challenge the conclusions by
of all, Espinosa writes that this alleged waterfall is ‘adjacent to the
petroglyphs’, but he does not state how far ‘adjacent’ (east or west?) this
waterfall actually is, nor does he mention whether this drop is vertical or
not. Figure 14 shows the frontal view of Bloque 69. Although Espinosa does not state how many panels Bloque 69 has, I take it that there are at least four panels (but
possibly six), numbered 1 to 4 from east to west (Paneles 1 and 4 may have been assigned an incorrect number by me).
The area of Paneles 1 and 2 does not
show any sign of a waterfall and the cliff at that point is not high enough. Panel 3 itself does not show signs of a
waterfall. Panel 4 is high enough and
shows signs of weathering and staining caused by water once dripping from
cracks, but definitely no signs of a waterfall. Also, in my opinion the area
above Panel 4 cannot collect enough
water to cause a true waterfall.
Figure 14. Drawing of Bloque 69 as observed from the NW with Panel 3 highlighted.
Scale about 1 m. (above panel 3). Drawing by Maarten van Hoek.
most logical place to ‘find’ a waterfall is at a spot about 10 m SW of Bloque 69; the spot where a small ravine
enters the Quebrada de Aroma. But when going towards that spot one first passes Bloque 70; a large cliff face with at
least one large petroglyph panel that is located about 2 m lower down the
ledge. From that point one can spot the mouth of a small, dry ‘Quebrada’ that empties into the Quebrada
de Aroma. The narrow cleft in which this mouth is located indeed has a number
of smooth rock surfaces that seem to be water-worn. This spot, also
‘overlooked’ by a few ‘minor’ petroglyph panels, could indeed have been the
scene of water tumbling down a few steps during wet times.
Figure 15. The area SW of Bloque 69 (indicated with a
yellow arrow, but invisible from this point of view).
Photograph by Maarten van
the possibility of a waterfall once being present at this point I again have some
reservations. Most importantly, it hardly ever rains in this area as it is
located in the driest desert on earth. The only water I saw during my survey in
April 2011 (Figures 1 and 15) was the river that flowed through the canyon
because of heavy rains during February and March 2011 in the High Andes. The
flowing water of the main stream hardly produces any sound as the valley floor
slopes only very little at this point. Moreover, the main stream is located at
the other (north) side of the valley and could not be heard from Bloque 69. Although the stream
frequently changes its course (see Google Earth 2007 and 2010), it is unlikely
that, because of the physical situation below (the higher plain level and the
raised river terrace, for instance) and just north of Bloque 69, the major
stream ever flowed immediately below Bloque 69. NW of Bloque 69 notably is a less
disturbed area of the flood plain (H in Figure 5) that also has a higher level.
The dotted line in Figure 5 indicates the north edge of that higher area which
serves as a small barrier, thus diverting the stream at that point.
the drainage basin of the ‘Quebrada’
SW of Bloque 70 is extremely small,
notably less than 1 square km (indicated by the blue frame in Figure 16) and
the run-off water from adjacent areas is emptied into the Quebrada de Aroma at
other spots. Therefore, if it rains
(and then I am speaking of a real downpour), the waterfall at the small
‘Quebrada’ will be in existence for only a very limited time and I moreover wonder if it ever will have carried enough water to
produce a sound. There is not a vertical drop of 7 metres at that point; only a
number of low cascading steps. I also wonder, if indeed a sound would have been produced during a heavy shower,
whether this sound will have been audible for a person standing in front of Bloque 69. As there was no actual
waterfall at the time of my inspection, I could not check the water-related
acoustic properties of the site (which can be rather unpredictable). A more
‘logical’ place to manufacture this alleged water-sound related ‘scene’ would
therefore have been very near the outlet of the ‘Quebrada’; for instance on Bloque 70.
Figure 16. Drainage area of the valley near Bloque 69
(yellow square). Scale 250 m.
Drawing by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google
of zoomorphic ‘flute players’ on Panel 3 of Bloque 69 at Ariquilda-1 in the
north of the Chilean Atacama Desert have been interpreted by Espinosa as ‘zorros músicos’ (see also Meyer 2006).
He moreover argues that each of those
laterally depicted ‘zorros músicos’
is directly associated with a petroglyph of a ‘frog’ or ‘toad’, all viewed from
above. He furthermore claims that those four Units are unique in the rock art
of northern Chile. In addition he argues that there is a relationship between
the four Units and a nearby ‘waterfall’ and that the whole scene is a unique example of graphical inversion in Andean rock
art. Based on those ideas he claims that ‘this
scene is a symbolic representation which functioned as a symbol for rainmaking’
However, in this
paper I have expressed a number of reservations regarding the conclusions by
Espinosa. To begin with, the four Units on Panel 3 of Bloque 69 at Ariquilda-1 are not unique because of the comparable
combination on Bloque 177 at
Tarapacá-47, but that fact does not distract from the arguments raised by
My first serious
reservation concerns the ‘foxes’. In my opinion it is not certain if the ‘zorros músicos’ at Ariquilda-1 truly
represent foxes (the animal species). A fox has two short ears, and in this respect the petroglyphs of ‘flute playing
zoomorphs’ on Bloque 177 at
Tarapacá-47 and on Bloque 10 at
Huancarane-1 are more convincing representations of canines, as both images
‘unequivocally’ show a ‘tail’ and two ‘ears’ (I realise however that in Andean
rock art countless representations of mammals have been depicted with one ear and two legs). Also, Espinosa should have at least mentioned that the
biomorph on Bloque 10 at Huancarane-1
has been identified as a ‘monkey’ by Niemeyer & Schiappacasse (1981: 74).
The ‘foxes’ on Bloque 69 on the other hand all have
only one, rather long, downward-curving appendage from the head. This appendage is
hardly acceptable as an ‘ear’; it looks more like some kind of headgear of a
human. Also their bodies are more voluminous and their posture is different
(compared with the Tarapacá-47 ‘fox’). Therefore, I would like to propose that
all four ‘flute players’ on Bloque 69
may possibly represent ‘humans-in-animal-disguise’,
while it remains uncertain whether indeed they depict ‘foxes’ or whatever
is the suggested correlation between the four ‘foxes’ and the four ‘frogs’.
Indeed, in all four cases a ‘flute playing biomorph’ seems to be directed towards a
‘frog’, and especially in Units 3 and 4 this relationship seems to be confirmed
by the circular groove that encloses the two biomorphs. However, at least in
one case, at Unit 1, it is almost certain that there is no ‘frog’ involved, and, moreover, that the ‘flute playing
biomorph’ may well address the ‘snake’. Therefore, Unit 1 can no longer be
regarded to be part of the arguments raised by Espinosa.
although Espinosa seems to depart from the idea that all eight biomorphs and
the two circular grooves have been executed by the same ‘hand’ at the same
time, this is by no means certain. What is certain is that at Ariquilda-1
several layers of rock art production occur. This is evidenced by the several styles
in which especially the ‘camelids’ have been drawn on the rocks and by a number
of superimpositions. This means that the possibility that the four ‘foxes’, the three ‘frogs’ and the circular grooves are not contemporary cannot be ruled out,
despite the seemingly very strong cases of association. Also associations in
rock art can be ‘superimposed’.
In this respect
I again will observe Unit 3. First of all, there is for instance a slight difference in patination between
the ‘fox’ (3A) and the ‘frog’ (3B), the ‘frog’ being more patinated. This may
mean that the ‘fox’ may have been added at a later stage. The circular groove
(3C) also shows differences in patination, but also in pecking technique (they
have been pecked somewhat coarser) and it may be added even later.
addition to the contemporaneity of all 12 elements as suggested by Espinosa, I
would like to acknowledge the possibility that the ‘frog’ petroglyphs represent an earlier stage and that the ‘foxes’
have been added later, possibly together with the two circular grooves, but
equally those enclosing circles may be later additions still. ‘Fox’ 4A might have been manufactured purposely
as a mirror image of ‘fox’ 3A and possibly this decision was based on the fundamental tenet of inversion in Andean
cosmology, it is certain however that the suggested inversion of the whole scene (thus involving Units 1 to 4
as shown by Espinosa in his much idealised Fig. 14) is at least questionable.
assumed relationship between the four Units and the mostly dry ‘waterfall’
nearby is most uncertain to me, I do not question the pervasive water-related
or even rain-related symbolism of ‘frog’ imagery in Andean rock art. Neither do
I have reservations about a possible water-related symbolism of ‘flute playing
biomorphs’. Therefore the interpretation of rain-making symbolism by Espinosa
may well be valid, but I question if indeed all four Units have simultaneously
been manufactured to represent one anticipated and coordinated and inverted scene to express a rain-making metaphor.
Jamp’atu - Hanp’átu: The name of the Dark Cloud Constellation of the Toad. Its
terrestrial counterpart is Bufo spinulosus, which tolerates dry altitude
very well and breeds principally at the onset of the rainy season. This toad
burrows in the earth during the cold/dry season to re-emerge with the
warm/rainy season. The celestial toad rises into the sky in the early morning
just after terrestrial toads have emerged from their long period of
subterranean hibernation and just at the time of their most intense croaking
and mating period. (Source: http://www.incaglossary.org/ - NB: Copy and Paste this URL to get access).
I am indebted to my wife Elles for her assistance during our visits
to Ariquilda and Tarapacá.
comentarios? escriba a: email@example.com—
Cómo citar este artículo:
Van Hoek, Maarten. The case of Panel 3 - Bloque 69 - Ariquilda-1, Chile. En Rupestreweb, http://www.rupestreweb.info/Ariquilda.html
in blue are links)
Chacama, J. M. & L. E. Briones. 1996. Arte Rupestre en el Desierto
Tarapaqueño, Norte de Chile. Boletín de SIARB. Vol. 10; pp 41 - 49.
La Paz, Bolivia.
Espinosa, G. 1996.
Lari y Jamp'atu. Ritual de luvia y simbolismo andino en un escena de arte
rupestre e Ariquilda-1. Norte de
Chile. Chungara. Revista de Antropología
Chilena. Vol. 28 - No’s. 1-2; pp 133 - 157. Arica,
H. & V. Schiappacasse. 1981. Aportes al
conocimiento del Período Tardío del extremo norte de Chile: Análisis del sector
Huancarane del valle de Camarones. Chungara. Revista de Antropología Chilena. Vol. 7; pp
3 -103. Arica, Chile.
Meyer, J. 2006. De petroglifos,
zorros y Tijeras.
Núñez, A. Lautaro, & L. Briones.
1967-8. Petroglifos del sitio Tarapacá-47 (Provincia de Tarapacá). Estudios Arqueológicos. Vol. 3-4; pp 43
- 75. Universidad de Chile. Antofagasta, Chile.
Reinhard, J. 2002. A high altitude archaeological survey in
northern Chile. Chungara.
Revista de Antropología Chilena. Vol. 34 - No 1; pp 85 - 99. Arica, Chile.
Van Hoek, M. 2005.
Biomorphs ‘playing a wind instrument’ in Andean rock art. Rock Art Research. Vol. 22-1, pp 23 - 34. Melbourne, Australia.
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