The case of panel 3-Bloque 69 - Ariquilda-1, Chile

Maarten van Hoek




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.




The official 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 Hoek.



The 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 Hoek.



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).


Interestingly, while 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.


Contradicting 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 Jarumato 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.



Although 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 occur.




Figure 5. The area near Bloque 69. Scale 25 m.

Drawing by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth maps.



Immediately in 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 floor.




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


The hypotheses 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.


Unfortunately, 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.


Although 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


This unit 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 site.



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


Interestingly, 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 ‘flute players’.



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 horizontally.


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).


The ‘flute 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


The general 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.’


Although 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 Espinosa.


First 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.


The 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 Hoek.


Despite 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.


Secondly, 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 Earth maps.



Four petroglyphs 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’ (1996: 133).


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 Espinosa.


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 animal species.


Another matter is the suggested correlation between the four ‘foxes’ and the four ‘frogs’. Indeed, in all four cases a ‘flute playing biomorphseems 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.


Moreover, 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.


Therefore, in 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.


Although the 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: - 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.







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Cómo citar este artículo:

Van Hoek, Maarten. The case of Panel 3 - Bloque 69 - Ariquilda-1, Chile. En Rupestreweb,



BIBLIOGRAFÍA (references 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, Chile.


Niemeyer, 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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