Commenting on “Las quilcas de Huancor, nuevas hipótesis sobre su cronología y asociación cultural”

Maarten van Hoek,



In August 2012 Gori Tumi Echevarría López (archaeologist associated with the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima and chairman of the Asociación Peruana de Arte Rupestre [APAR]) and Enzo Mora (associated with the Universidad Nacional de Ica in Ica) published a paper in Volume 3, No.12 of the Boletín APAR called: “Las quilcas de Huancor, nuevas hipótesis sobre su cronología y asociación cultural”.

In their article the authors present a hypothesis explaining the possible chronology of the petroglyph production at the rock art site of Huancor, which is located in the Province of Chincha (Department of Ica, Peru). Their suggested chronology heavily depends on their interpretation and assessment of a ‘Chavín-looking’ petroglyph from Huancor. To substantiate their arguments, the authors describe twelve panels, using photographs taken by Enzo Mora and drawings by Núñez Jiménez (1986).

In this paper I will comment on the article by Echevarría López & Mora for several reasons. One reason is that they have used several drawings published by Núñez Jiménez, while in an earlier paper published in Rupestreweb I have clearly demonstrated that more than 20 % of his drawings are inaccurate and/or incorrect. Therefore I wrote in my paper (Van Hoek 2012):

“Sin embargo, todos los investigadores de arte rupestre moderno debe ser plenamente consciente de los riesgos cuando él o ella utiliza sin crítica (copias) de material ilustrativo del libro de Núñez Jiménez. En realidad, voy a criticar a cualquier investigador de arte rupestre que se acríticamente utilizar cualquier dibujo realizado por Antonio Núñez Jiménez, sin mencionar los riesgos, sobre todo después de mis comentarios se han publicado a través de mi libro” (2011b).

The other reason concerns the fact that the authors prefer to completely ignore known facts and earlier publications and yet venture to publish a paper with so many flaws and errors as well as biased and uncorroborated statements that the scientific content becomes highly questionable.

Both remarks must be corroborated by me, of course. Therefore in the current paper I will comment on several issues, focussing on the use of the graphical material of Núñez Jiménez (1986), and the one-sided view regarding the ‘Chavín-looking’ petroglyph from Huancor.


Introduction to Huancor

Huancor is a petroglyph site in central Peru about 32 km inland from the Pacific Ocean and 25 km east of the Plaza de Armas of the coastal town of Chincha (distances - as the crow flies - measured with Google Earth). The rock art site is situated on the right-hand (north) bank of the Río San Juan, just east of a dry river valley (blue arrow in Figure 1), which runs south and joins the Río San Juan at a spot roughly 600 m south of the Huancor site. Thus, the petroglyph site of Huancor is (like many other rock art sites - for instance Yonán in the north of Peru) typically found at a spot that overlooks the confluence of a Quebrada (a mainly dry-dead river bed) and a water-life-carrying river (Río San Juan). Therefore, the ‘huaca’ possibly symbolises the Andean concept of duality.

The petroglyphs at Huancor are found heavily concentrated in a small area (roughly 200 m E-W by 140 m N-S) and have been manufactured on boulders and outcrops that are located between the 500 m and the 600 m contours; mainly concentrating around the 560 m O.D. contour. The site is formed by a wedge-shaped ridge which projects to the SW (see Figure 1), creating three sectors with petroglyphs: a large sector comprising the east and south slopes of the ridge; a smaller sector covering the west slope immediately east of the Quebrada, and the very small south sector which is formed by the tip of the wedge-shaped ridge. This last sector is a most conspicuous concentration of outcrops and boulders (see Figure 3) and it is there where the majority of images are found.

There is some confusion about numbers of petroglyph rocks and rock motifs. Hostnig (2003: 171) speaks of 200 figures (a number which undoubtedly is incorrect), while Echevarría López & Mora (2012: 449) more correctly speak of 200 rocks and possibly a few thousands of figures. They mainly base these numbers on the information supplied by book by Núñez Jiménez (1986), and simultaneously they acknowledge the fact that Núñez Jiménez did not record all petroglyph rocks at Huancor. However, especially at Huancor, it is difficult to speak of ‘rocks’, as there are many outcrops and cliffs that have a large number of individual panels.

There are some more issues regarding the statistics for Huancor. The maximum number of illustrated Piedras in the section of Huancor by Núñez Jiménez is 200 (1986: 197), but in a few cases ‘A’ numbers have been used (like Piedra 199-A; the ‘A’ does not refer to one panel out of several on one rock, but to an individual entry; in this case an individual boulder). Moreover, a few drawings appear to represent double-entries. For instance Piedra 13 (1986: Fig. 1630) is the same as Piedra 25 (1986: Fig. 1660) and Fig 1617 is the same as Fig. 1740. There are also many illustrations that have no Piedra number, and three of these may not even be found at Huancor, as ‘copies’ of these drawings have been repeated at the La Caseta section (1986: 251), a site much further south, in the Grande drainage.

All these inaccuracies, uncertainties and errors will prove the statistics regarding the Huancor petroglyphs to be unreliable. Fortunately Echevarría López & Mora confirm this statistical uncertainty (2012: 449). My own surveys at Huancor yielded a record of 180 petroglyph rocks with altogether 228 decorated panels. As I have not seen all petroglyphs illustrated by Núñez Jiménez and certainly missed many more panels, I estimated the total number of panels to be around 300.


Comments on the use of Núñez Jiménez graphics

Not only the statistics in the book by Núñez Jiménez are often unreliable, especially the graphics in the book by Núñez Jiménez are highly doubtful. I have clearly demonstrated that, in general, more than 20 % of the illustrations by Núñez Jiménez are inaccurate or even completely incorrect (Van Hoek 2011b 2012). The section of Huancor by Núñez Jiménez contains at least 60 uncertainties, including several incorrect graphics (Van Hoek 2011b: 85 - 93). It proves that, despite all the information that is available to date, Echevarría López & Mora still preferred to uncritically copy material published by Núñez Jiménez. In their paper they use ten drawings from the book by Núñez Jiménez (while curiously and unnecessarily omitting all useful scales provided by Núñez Jiménez) and thirteen photographs taken by Enzo Mora. Their use of the Núñez Jiménez drawings and their interpretations of the ten Escenas will be commented on by me first.


Figura 1: Croquis del sitio.

First of all, Echevarría López & Mora (2012: Figura 1) have literally and uncritically copied the site map of Huancor made by Antonio Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 1608). They only added some information; in a few cases incorrectly. Although the general lay-out of the plan made by Núñez Jiménez is ‘more or less’ correct, I still have several comments. First of all, most dots on his plan do not show a Piedra number. For instance, the important Piedra 119 and many others are not marked on the plan. More disturbing is the fact that the location details are often most inaccurate and sometimes incorrect, while, as a consequence, also the captions to his drawings often offer incorrect information regarding distances and bearings to other stones. In fact, it is impossible to build a conclusive scientific analysis which is based on the Núñez Jiménez map.

And yet, that is what Echevarría López & Mora have done. They accept that the Núñez Jiménez map is correct and thus they inevitably make mistakes. Although the locations of Escenas 3 to 9 are only approximately correctly indicated by Echevarría López & Mora, the location of  Escena 2 is quite inaccurately indicated. They also accept that the location of their Escena 1 (Piedra 5) is correct, while in fact Escena 1 is located roughly 30 m to the WNW of the spot marked on the Núñez Jiménez map (see Figure 1). Actually, Escena 1 is located directly between Escena 2 and Escena 3 (see Figure 2). If indeed Echevarría López & Mora have surveyed the site themselves, they should have been aware of their error (and as it proves that Enzo Mora took the photographs, he at least should have been aware). An error of 30 m seems to be acceptable (it is not, though). But there is more.

Figure 1. The correct locations of Escenas 1 and 10 at Huancor, Peru (green squares). The red squares indicate the locations as incorrectly marked by Echevarría López & Mora (2012: Fig. 1). Scale is 50 m.
Map by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth 2009.

Figure 2. The correct location of Escena 1 (between Escenas 2, 3 and 4) at Huancor, Peru; looking north. Photograph by Maarten van Hoek.

The same location error occurs for Escena 10. This boulder has no Piedra number (Núñez Jiménez 1986: Fig. 1829) and consequently cannot be found on the map by Núñez Jiménez. I wonder whether Echevarría López has located this boulder himself in the field, as the authors locate it about 100 m NNW of the actual spot (see Figure 1). Enzo Mora took the photograph, so at least he should have been aware of this error. In fact, Escena 10 is found on one of the southernmost petroglyph panels at Huancor (Figure 3).


Figure 3. The correct location of Escena 10 at Huancor, Peru; looking north. The red arrow marks the (invisible) location as incorrectly marked by Echevarría López & Mora on ‘their’ map (2012: Fig. 1). Photograph by Maarten van Hoek.

Figura 12: Escena 1

This drawing concerns Escena 1 (Piedra 5), which is incorrectly indicated on the map in Echevarría López & Mora (2012: Fig. 1). Moreover, the original Núñez Jiménez drawing, uncritically copied, is incorrect and incomplete. Echevarría López & Mora describe four motifs (2012: 452), while there are at least six pre-Columbian petroglyphs on this panel (marked 1 to 6 in Figure 4), as well as a crudely pecked groove (marked 7 in Figure 4) and a lightly incised or scratched pattern (probably added recently -marked 8 in Figure 4). Importantly, the large zoomorph is not internally decorated with lines, but its body, tail and two legs are filled with dots (there are only two legs, not four - if consistently counting four legs, the zoomorph would have two tails as well).

Moreover, Echevarría López & Mora ignore the general possibility that petroglyphs have been altered, changed or re-pecked at later times and thus they also ignore the possibility that the ‘strange’ head of this zoomorph has been added or altered at later times. A part of the head notably has a slightly different patination and this part might as well be interpreted as an inverted anthropomorphic figure superimposed (as prey?) over the head of the zoomorph.

It seems that Núñez Jiménez made his drawing (1986: Fig. 1618) directly from an oblique photograph (like his Fig. 1619). Therefore his drawing is distorted and the zoomorph has been depicted in an inclined position. My photograph (Figure 4) clearly shows that this is not the case, as does the photograph by Enzo Mora (2012: Fig 2); the zoomorph is horizontally orientated. Yet, Echevarría López & Mora preferred not to make their own drawing, but instead copied the incorrect drawing by Núñez Jiménez.

Also remarkable is that Echevarría López & Mora classify Motivos 2 and 3 of Escena 1 as ‘formas curvilíneas abstractas’, while they at least should have acknowledged the possibility that both figures are unfinished zoomorphs (which I believe them to be).

Figure 4. The petroglyphs of Escena 1; looking north. Length of element 1 is about 50 cm (tail to head) Photograph by Maarten van Hoek.


Figura 13: Escena 2

Fortunately in this case Echevarría López & Mora use a photograph to illustrate Escena 2. I prefer this method over copying doubtful or incorrect drawings from Núñez Jiménez (who incorrectly labels two different panels as Piedra 28 in his book: Fig. 1663 and Fig. 1664). Therefore I only have a few remarks. Motivo 2 could well represent a biomorph and Echevarría López & Mora ignore two crude, linear markings above the serpentine groove. Finally, I find it incomprehensible that Motivos 2 and 3 form Grupo 2. I do not see any reason why to group these two, and separate them from Motivo 1. Equally, all three motifs could well have been manufactured by the same hand at the same time (while the brighter motif could have been re-pecked much later), or, alternatively, at different times, by different people. These are only my subjective suggestions as I have no clue regarding the chronology of the petroglyphs in Escena 2.


Figura 14: Escena 2

The drawing by Núñez Jiménez is largely correct (but again he incorrectly labels two different panels as Piedra 30: Fig. 1665 and Fig. 1666). Also the description of the motifs by Echevarría López & Mora (2012: 453) is convincing, except for one interpretation. I was notably surprised to read that Motivo 1 was described as ‘totalmente abstracto geométrico’, because to me it looks definitely like a fine example of a bicephalic biomorph; possibly a bicephalic ‘snake’; a recurrent motif in Andean iconography. Echevarría López & Mora also did not mention (or rather, did not notice in the field?) that the crude groove between the right-hand shoulder and the left hand of the largest anthropomorph most likely has been added at a later time.


Figura 15: Escena 4

Actually, this figure (Echevarría López & Mora 2012: Fig. 15) is incomplete. If we accept that a panel is one similarly orientated, unbroken piece of a rock surface, then Piedra 33 (1986: Fig. 1668) is found on the same panel as the un-numbered figure illustrated by Núñez Jiménez as Fig. 1680. Moreover, Núñez Jiménez does not illustrate all motifs on this large panel; at least three zoomorphic petroglyphs are missing. Surprisingly, Echevarría López & Mora (2012: 453) interpret their Motivo 1 as zoomorphic, while it clearly is anthropomorphic. If in doubt, one can use the term biomorphic.

Finally, it would have been worthwhile to mention that the figures with the typical position of the ‘saluting’ anthropomorphs in Escenas 3 and 4 (and on several other panels at Huancor) are repeated at distant sites like Canicora, Alto de Pitis, Miculla (all three in southern Peru) and Calaunsa in Chile (875 km SE of Huancor).


Figura 16: Escena 5

This panel is said to have six motifs by Echevarría López & Mora (2012: Fig. 16), but the drawing by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 1753) shows a seventh (serpentine) petroglyph to the right of the group (confirmed by me in the field). Echevarría López & Mora suggest that the two big zoomorphs (M1 and M2: lizards?, one with five or six claws!) are of a manufacture earlier than the other motifs. Because motifs M1 and M2 seem to have been partially re-pecked (their tails may be considerably longer), it is unclear to me how Echevarría López & Mora separated the two ‘groups’ chronologically (they do not use the terms Grupo 1 or Grupo A in their description anymore).


Figura 17: Escena 6

Echevarría López & Mora describe a fine panel in the west sector of Huancor using a drawing by Núñez Jiménez (1986: 1797).  His drawing differs only regarding some minor details from my observations.


Figura 18: Escena 7

More problematic is the case of Escena 7. Echevarría López & Mora illustrate Escena 7 in their Figura 18, which actually is a composition of two illustrations by Núñez Jiménez. The part to the left of the dividing crack (marked with a yellow arrow in Figure 5) is Piedra 189 (1986: page 191; Fig. 1805), while the right-hand part appears on a different page (1986: page 200; Fig. 1833 - without a Piedra number). Unfortunately, Núñez Jiménez himself does not at all link those two drawings in his book, but Echevarría López & Mora do. In it self the composition in Figura 17 is correct, but it is misleading to present this drawing as one panel. One has to read the text and/or scan the photograph (2012: Fig. 8) in order to appreciate that in fact two panels are involved. Therefore the deep, separating crack should have been included in their drawing. Moreover, it is remarkable that Echevarría López & Mora selected those two panels and ignored all other neighbouring panels, including a panel on a boulder directly to the west of their Figura 18 (not shown in their Fig 18 or Fig. 8, or in my Figure 5).

Figure 5. The petroglyphs of Escena 7; looking north. Notice the differences in patination and the ugly ‘Cesar’ graffiti added to a rock between 2004 and 2006. Photograph by Maarten van Hoek

Echevarría López & Mora argued that the motifs on the two panels form an ‘escena única’. I beg to differ, especially as they themselves continue to argue that the right hand panel is dominated by zoomorphic petroglyphs, while the left hand panel is dominated by anthropomorphic figures and dots; a recurrent theme at Huancor. They moreover state that 32 motifs are found on the two panels. It again proves that the writer(s?) bases this number only on the drawings by Núñez Jiménez (1986). However, the photograph taken by Enzo Mora (Echevarría López & Mora 2012: Fig. 8) clearly shows a zoomorphic petroglyph just below and to the left of their Motivo 1 (see Figure 5: blue arrow), which has been ignored because Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 1833) only includes the head of this zoomorphic petroglyph. In fact, their Figura 18 does not show several other petroglyphs (especially the petroglyphs on the top part of the right hand panel are missing - see Figure 5: red arrow) and a few lines are missing, while Motivos 26 and 27 are found on another, differently orientated panel (where recently a zoomorphic figure has been added - see Figure 5: green arrow). Although the authors relate of vandalism to the right hand panel, they do not mention that especially the left hand panel has recently scratched by vandals and now includes a most unwanted swastika design.

Finally, Echevarría López & Mora do not separate in their Figura 18 the many motifs that clearly show a much brighter patina from the much more patinated motifs. Especially six zoomorphs (M9, M10, M13, M14, M16 and M20) and a ‘solar’ motif (M5) are almost ‘as new’. These bright petroglyphs (especially the zoomorphs) may represent older motifs that have been re-pecked, or they may be more recently added motifs.


Figura 19: Escena 8

This figure is not a drawing based on Núñez Jiménez as stated in their caption, but on a photograph by Enzo Mora showing the biggest part of the rock (a small part is missing and a small side-panel on the left is invisible). Although this photograph shows many petroglyphs (yet only two illustrated by Núñez Jiménez [1986: Fig. 1812]), the authors decided to select five motifs (although M4 proves to comprise a group of several motifs). I have no further comments.


Figura 20: Escena 9

Again, the drawing in Figura 20 is based on an incomplete and misleading drawing by Núñez Jiménez (of Piedra 198 - 1986: Fig. 1814). The discrepancies are actually caused by the fact that the motifs illustrated in Fig. 1814 partially appear on a south facing panel as well as on the upper surface of this large boulder (that moreover has another petroglyph panel, incompletely illustrated by Núñez Jiménez in his Figura 1815, as well as a small unpublished decorated side-panel just to the left of Motivo 13). Especially several petroglyphs on the upper surface are missing in the drawing by Núñez Jiménez. However, the observations by Echevarría López & Mora are most convincing.


Figura 21: Escena 10

Not only has been this last panel incorrectly indicated in their map (Figura 1), Echevarría López & Mora also present Escena 10 to include two motifs, while there are at least three motifs (Figure 6) on this small, vertical side panel of a large boulder with more decorated panels (and possibly a few indistinct markings). The reason for this discrepancy is that Echevarría López & Mora again base their (otherwise rather vague) observations on the incorrect drawing by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 1829). It notably proves that there are at least two ‘bird’ petroglyphs that are only seemingly linked by a much fainter group of lines that just possibly represents a biomorph.

Figure 6. The petroglyphs of Escena 10; looking NE. Scale 10 cm (having used the IFRAO scale). Inset in black: the original drawing by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 1829) without its scale. Drawing by Maarten van Hoek.

Figura 23: Quilca Chavín de Huancor

The paper by Echevarría López & Mora also includes an attempt at dating the rock art at Huancor. In order to establish a chronology, they mainly use one specific petroglyph, which, in my opinion, is the most controversial image at Huancor. It is found on Piedra 136-A (Núñez Jiménez 1986: Figures 1770 and 1771); a very large boulder with several decorated panels. The rather large image (about 50 cm across) is found isolated on a steeply sloping, NW facing panel of small dimensions, but seems to be linked by lines to petroglyphs on the upper surface of the boulder. Because of those lines it has been suggested that they form a ‘hat’ (Nieves 2007: 82), but I doubt if they are even part of the image. It also seems that the figure has been re-pecked as especially the lines in the bottom right-hand corner have a more weathered appearance (the area between the two blue arrows in Figure 7) while the larger part looks relatively ‘fresh’.

Figure 7. The ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image; looking SE. Notice the more patinated part between the two arrows. Photograph by Maarten van Hoek.


Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 1771) classified this petroglyph as belonging to a ‘Cultura Chavinoide’, while Ana Nieves (2007: 82) speaks of ‘Chavinoide traits’ and of ‘Chavín rock art’. I now disagree with both authors. I have comprehensively explained that the use of an exclusive ‘Chavín’ label for this petroglyph (and many others) is scientifically unacceptable (Van Hoek 2011a).

What I therefore find most controversial and questionable, is that this ‘key’ petroglyph image is again (in 2012) classified as ‘una forma Chavín’ and as ‘un arquetipo figurado del arte Chavín más convencional’ (Echevarría López & Mora 2012: 557). Echevarría López & Mora moreover argue that ‘esta imagen constituye la prueba más concreta de la influencia de la civilización Chavín en la historia gráfica de Huancor’. For those reasons Echevarría López & Mora (2012: Tabla 3) have dated this petroglyph to the Early Horizon; ‘Horizonte Tempano (800 - 700? aEC)’, and assign this image to Phase 3 of the petroglyph production at Huancor. The only ‘proof’ for a Chavín origin/influence they offer is graphical comparison. They may be right (or wrong) about the date of this figure (however, it has even been suggested that the image is modern fake), but I strongly question the ‘Chavín’ influence (and thus also their dating for this figure and thus also for their whole Huancor-dating).

In order to remain unbiased, I will from now on refer to this petroglyph (Figure 7) as the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image. The Formative Period (comprising the Initial Period and the Early Horizon) roughly started around 2000 B. C. and ended around 200 B.C.. This time span indeed allows that the hypothesis by Echevarría López & Mora - that the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image was manufactured during that period - is correct. But I still question their dating.

In order to corroborate their ‘Chavín influence’ claim, they compare the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image with for instance the imagery from Chavín de Huántar and the images on the well-known Karwa textiles (also assigned to Chavín in their opinion; which I doubt very much). Surprisingly they do not refer to the Formative Period imagery found in the temple complex of Garagay in the city of Lima, which includes a key image regarding the Chavín controversy (Van Hoek 2011a: Fig. 154B).

Surprisingly the two rock art researchers compare the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image only with two rock art images; one from Cerro Cantería (Abanto Llaque & García-Godos 2004; Van Hoek 2011a: Figs 112, 134 and 135) in the Chillón drainage, north of Huancor, and the other from Chichitarra in the Grande drainage, south of Huancor (Van Hoek 2011a: Fig. 114A).

However, in general, when rock art researchers scientifically make comparisons, they should include all known petroglyphs that are (possibly) related. Any omission (whether deliberate or accidental) severely weakens the argument. In this respect it is strange that Echevarría López & Mora state (2012: 458) that in the Department of Lima no comparable petroglyphs have been reported, while I have suggested that at least one petroglyph at Checta - on Piedra 41 (Núñez Jiménez 1986: Fig. 1289) - may well be interpreted as a Formative Period style face (Van Hoek 2011a: Fig. 119). Moreover, Echevarría López & Mora contradict their own statement about the Department of Lima by referring to the Cerro Cantería petroglyphs, which are in Lima (only 20 km NE of the city centre of Lima). Furthermore, Echevarría López & Mora do not seem to acknowledge the discovery (in 2009!) of the Formative Period petroglyph at Bogotalla in the Ingenio Valley (Caipo Berrocal 2009; Van Hoek 2011a: Fig. 114B; Van Hoek 2011c) or of the various clearly Formative Period petroglyphs at Chillihuay in Ocoña much further south (Chumpitaz Llerena & Rodriguez Cerrón 2008: Fig. 3; Van Hoek 2011a: Figs 28, 115, 120A, 121, 124 and 129) that often clearly show Formative Period traits. All those examples were published before 2012 and therefore should have been taken into account in a work that pretends to offer a scientific analysis.

When considering all those examples of Formative Period imagery, it becomes unacceptable to admit that all those MSC-Style images have been created because of a purported Chavín influence. First there is the enormous distance (although distance in it self is not a problem in the Andean world) between Chavín de Huántar and Ocoña. And secondly, it seems that each site has its own ‘style’ of Formative Period images. Therefore they might not even be related to each other, let alone to Chavín.

Therefore, I absolutely refute the absolute claim that the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image is definitely of Chavín influence (let alone of Chavín manufacture). I have clearly demonstrated that most purported ‘Chavín’ petroglyphs and rock paintings in the Andes most likely have nothing to do with the Chavín Civilisation, but that they are much older (Van Hoek 2011a). In this respect I prefer to allow several alternatives. And in order to facilitate this, I have formulated an acronym in order to cover a very specific group of rock art images in the Andes. I have labelled this group the MSC-Style, which refers, without pinpointing anything, to the possibility that the Manchay culture (once located in the area around the capital of Lima), or the Sechín culture (roughly the area between the towns of Huarmey, Chimbote and Huaraz) and the Cupisnique cultures (roughly the coastal area from Chimbote to Olmos in the north) have been responsible for this type of images.

I even argued that local groups could be responsible for the manufacture of certain MSC-Style images. This could well be the case for the MSC-Style petroglyph at Huancor; the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image (see Figure 7). An argument in favour of a local manufacture is that Richard Burger (1995: Fig. 210) illustrates a textile ‘reputedly from a deep tomb in the Chincha Valley’, discovered about 15 km inland and thus only 20 km from Huancor. This Chincha textile clearly shows an MSC-Style frontal head. This fact should have been mentioned by Echevarría López & Mora.

Finally, when the dating of the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image by Echevarría López & Mora is most uncertain, then also their subsequent conclusions regarding the dating of the other Huancor images are high questionable. For example, they argue (2012: 458) that images from their Grupo A are of Chavín origin (manufacture?) and moreover that the petroglyphs from Grupo A predate the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image ‘by many years’ (mucho antes). I cannot accept this absolute dating without conclusive proof (and absolute, scientifically tested dating is not available for any of the Huancor petroglyphs). Neither can I accept their resulting relative chronology, because their observations (too often only based on the Núñez Jiménez graphics) and arguments are unconvincing and vague.


Some observations

The paper by Echevarría López & Mora pretends to offer a scientific analysis of the chronology of the Huancor petroglyphs. Remarkably, their analysis is based on only twelve rock art panels (grouped in ten Escenas and one individual petroglyph; the ‘Formative Period Huancor’ image). In my opinion it is incomprehensible that only twelve panels have been analysed. Huancor has more than 230 panels and all, or at least a more credible number of panels should have been taken into account. Their extremely limited sample (only 5 % of the total number of panels) analysed by Echevarría López & Mora renders the results published in their paper to be scientifically incredible.

Moreover, in my opinion the Escenas seem to have been randomly selected. For instance, I do not see any reason to specifically include Escena 10 into their analysis. There are so many much better suitable panels at Huancor, especially several interesting cases of palimpsest (a very fine example occurs on a boulder immediately NW of Escena 10). First of all, Enscena 10 has at least three petroglyphs (perhaps others have already disappeared, as taphonomy dictates), instead of two (see Figure 6). In any case it should have been acknowledged by Echevarría López & Mora that, besides the two ‘bird’ petroglyphs, a third element (comprising fainter lines) exists on this panel and that these lines only seemingly form a unity with the left hand ‘bird’ (the whole scene may be an example of palimpsest). But because they choose to copy and use undifferentiated drawings by Núñez Jiménez, they arrived at the wrong conclusions, which weaken their analysis as a whole. Secondly and as a consequence of my first observation, Echevarría López & Mora cannot classify their ‘two’ images on Escena 10 to belong to Grupo D (2012: 557) because they base their conclusions on an incorrect drawing. Moreover, I cannot find any conclusive evidence why the images of Escena 10 belong to this Grupo D.

Again, their analysis is based on only ten (twelve) panels (2012: 456), which resulted in four chronological Grupos. But the motifs that form those Grupos have not clearly been identified; not for all ten selected Escenas and certainly not for the whole corpus of images at Huancor. For instance, Huancor is rather exceptional for a large amount of cupules, especially occurring at the South Sector. Also special at Huancor are the relatively many petroglyphs of ‘flute-player’ images. Especially the cupules seem to be very old, and, although I have no idea what age they are, those cupules should have definitely been taken into account as well; at least they should have been mentioned.



In conclusion, I have demonstrated that Echevarría López & Mora have used unreliable graphics from Núñez Jiménez (1986). This means that, factually, several errors occur in their paper. Their Núñez Jiménez map is incorrect. The drawings by Núñez Jiménez are often inaccurate, incomplete and/or incorrect. Moreover the Núñez Jiménez drawings do not at all differentiate between less patinated and deeply patinated petroglyphs or parts thereof. Echevarría López & Mora ignore the fact that less patinated images may well have been re-pecked and altered.

Part of the argumentation by Echevarría López & Mora depends on the differing sizes of the motifs (2012: 456). In this respect it is unscientific that the authors have omitted the useful scales provided by Núñez Jiménez (1986). A reader, not familiar with the rock art site of Huancor or not having access to the publication by Núñez Jiménez, will have no idea about the dimensions of the motifs that have been used by the authors to create four Grupos. Thus, the reader, scanning the drawings of Escenas 9 and 10 - that appear on one page - may have the impression that the ‘bird’ petroglyphs of Escena 10 (M1 and M2) are larger than the ‘bird’ petroglyph (M9) in Escena 9. In fact M10 is roughly 40 cm high, while M1 and M2 are less than 20 cm tall. Besides these misleading dimensional and graphical discrepancies, I cannot accept that - in general - size is decisive to establish a chronology upon. Unfortunately the authors do not link their Grupos A to D with specific elements (Motivos) depicted in the ten Escenas; the reader has to guess which Motivo belongs to which Grupo. Moreover, I do not understand why the authors use two different types of Grupos: for instance Grupos 1 and 2 on page 452, and Grupos A to D on page 456.

Added to these flaws and uncertainties is the too small sample of analysed panels and the rather vague and unconvincing ‘evidence’ or argumentation put forward to substantiate an otherwise unpersuasive chronology for the Huancor rock art corpus; a chronology that moreover too much depends on only one purported ‘Chavín-influenced’ image (while it moreover is unacceptable to me that this image undeniably is of Chavín influence).

And last but not least, it is scientifically unacceptable that relevant and available information about rock art sites like Huancor, Checta, Bogotalla and Chillihuay and currently published hypotheses about the overestimated power of Chavín in Andean archaeology, have been ignored by the authors, while I am sure that all this information is known to the authors (at least, I have personally informed one of the authors about the existence of several publications). Therefore, this information is accessible to the authors.

As a final point, the man in Figura 22, a photograph published by Echevarría López & Mora (2012: 557), clearly touches the petroglyph stone illustrated with his hand. This should be avoided at all times and the authors, and especially the photographer, Enzo Mora, should have made this clear to the man, (literally) beforehand (de ante mano). Alternatively, the authors should have decided not to publish this photo. Notably, this photo gives a very bad example how to approach rock art, especially as the Código de Etica de APAR(the Asociación Peruana de Arte Rupestre of which Echevarría López is the ‘presidente’) clearly and most appropriately states: ‘No debe intervenirse físicamente el arte rupestre en ninguna forma. No debe tocarse, pintarse, rasparse, tizarse, mojarse, escalarse, etc.’ and to ‘Observar el arte rupestre siempre desde una distancia prudencial’ (APAR n.d.).


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Cómo citar este artículo:

van Hoek, Maarten. Commenting on “Las quilcas de Huancor, nuevas hipótesis sobre su cronología y asociación cultural”
En Rupestreweb,




(References in blue are links to the sources as accessible in 2012)

Abanto Llaque, J. H. & M. García-Godos. 2004. Los Petroglifos Formativos de Cerro Cantería: Un adoratorio temprano entre la cuenca alta de quebrada Canto Grande y quebrada El Progreso, Lima. Primer Encuentro Peruano de Arte Rupestre - EPAR, Lima, Perú.

APAR. n.d. Código de Etica de APAR. Asociación Peruana de Arte Rupestre. (APAR).

Burger, R. L. 1995. Chavín and the origins of Andean civilization. Thames and Hudson, London.

Caipo Berrocal, M. 2009. Hallazgo de petroglifos en Nazca. In: Rupestreweb Mensajes.

Echevarría López, G. T.  & E. Mora. 2012. Las quilcas de Huancor, nuevas hipótesis sobre su cronología y asociación cultural. Boletín APAR; Vol. 3, No 12. Mayo 2012. (APAR > pp 449 - 461).

Hostnig, R. 2003. Arte rupestre del Perú. Inventario Nacional. CONCYTEC, Lima, Perú.

Nieves, A. C. 2007. Between the river and the pampa: a contextual approach to the rock art of the Nasca Valley (Grande River system), Department of Ica, Peru. The University of Texas at Austin, U.S.A.

Núñez Jiménez, A. 1986. Petroglifos del Perú. Panorama mundial del arte rupestre. 2da. Ed. PNUD-UNESCO - Proyecto Regional de Patrimonio Cultural y Desarrollo, La Habana.

Rodríguez Cerrón M. & D. Chumpitaz Llerena. 2008. Los Petroglifos de Chillihuay: Aproximaciones a su interpretación. Paper presented at the III Simposio Nacional de Arte Rupestre. Huaraz, Perú.

Van Hoek, M. 2011a. The Chavín Controversy - Rock Art from the Andean Formative period. Privately Published using the BLURB Creative Publishing Service. Oisterwijk, The Netherlands.

Van Hoek, M. 2011b. Petroglyphs of Peru - Following the Footsteps of Antonio Núñez Jiménez. Privately Published using the BLURB Creative Publishing Service. Oisterwijk, The Netherlands.

Van Hoek, M. 2011c. Bogotalla, Perú: How the three-dimensionality of a boulder may explain the occurrence of two-dimensional petroglyphs on that rock. In: Rupestreweb.

Van Hoek, M. 2012. Cerro Mulato: el caso de Piedra 274. In: Rupestreweb.

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