Léo DUBAL*, Maximilien BRUGGMANN** 

* Virtual Laboratory for Archaeometry, 
** Reporter-Photographer, Condemines 21, CH-1400 Yverdon (Switzerland)

At 4500 m.over see level, 120 km off the west coast of lake Titicaca, not far from Mazo-Cruz,
the archaeological site of Qu'elcatani, Terrenos de Chichillape, deserves special attention.
In aymara language, "Qu'elcatani" means the "written stone".
According to Simone WAISBARD, this Rock Art Sanctuary has always been well known to the Chichillape people,
but remained unknown to the outside world until the oldest inhabitant,
Clemente CHAMBILLA, mentioned its existence to a Rock Art amateur, Carlos de AMAT [1].
Around 1968, Jean-Christian SPAHNI, the Geneva's ethnologist who died 3 years ago,
might well have been the first foreigner to visit this site [2].
Finally, in 1976, BRUGGMANN made the first photographic recording of the site [3].

This site is located under a rock shelter, facing North, not exposed to direct sunlight, rain and wind.
There is a 26 meter long and 6 m high wall, covered with polychrome (red ochre, white and black) paintings,
depicting guanacos and other members of the camel family,
pumas  and other predators, anthropomorphs (see Fig. 1),

Chchillape dancers with pumas
Fig. 1  Dancing Rayed-Head Chichillapes and Puma
           (in red ochre) / Photo Bruggmann

hunters  and  traps (see Fig. 2)
chichillape hunter
Fig. 2 : Guanaco hunter
            Photo Dubal

and decorative patterns such as the one still in use on aguayo tissues (see Fig. 3).
pattern aguayo
  Fig 3   "Aguayo" Decorative Pattern ( in ochre and white)
              Photo Bruggmann

Due to their protective environment, those paintings might be quite old, though,
to our knowledge,
no C14-datation has been made so far. In favour of the high antiquity hypothesis,
SPAHNI [1] argued with the representation of the long ago disappeared hippocamelus antisensis.

On Fig. 1 are depicted (dancing ?) "Rayed-Head Chichillapes", painted in red ocher at Qu'elcatani.
They remind of iron-age "Rayed-Head Camunians"  engraved at Zurla and Foppe di Nadro in Valcamonica [4]. 

Against the high antiquity hypothesis, one has to compare those "Rayed-Head Chichillapes",
with the "Rayed-Head Wenatchees" painted in the Columbia Plateau [5].

KEYSER elaborated a chronological scale, according to which, the style of the
"Rayed-Head Chichillapes " would correspond to the mid-"Riverine Phase", i.e. 1500 years old.
Similarly to the Rayed-Heads from the Columbia Plateau, the Chichillape Rayed-Heads appear
sometimes with Rayed-Arcs, and do not present an obvious sexual identity.

In the composition of Fig. 1, one should notice, left to the upper "Rayed-Head People",
the "falling Rayed-Head animal".

According to the local Aymaras, excavation works (directed by Mark Aldenderfer)
took place a few months before the visit of DUBAL, in August 1993.

The holes have been left open and are visible on Fig. 4.
Nice, light flint arrow-heads, with a length of 15 to 20 mm, have been found.
The shape of those artefacts coincides, on KEYSER's scale [5], again with 1500 BP.
In our opinion, the "aguayo patterns" (Fig. 3) speak also in favour of low antiquity.

On Fig. 4, the dry stone wall - erected in reaction to an act of vandalism and theft
by foreign tourists -  is clearly recognisable.
protected rock art area
Fig 4: The Rock Art Sanctuary of Qu'elcatani
          (from inside de newly protected area)
           Photo: Dubal

This protective wall is the result of the initiative of
the brothers Aries and Francisco ALBINO who led the Chichillape Community.
It is an excellent example of a remote rural community, conscious and proud of its invaluable cultural heritage, taking appropriate conservation measures, without any outside support.

For the Quelcatani Rock Art Gallery
Click here

[1] Simone WAISBARD, Tiahuanaco, R. Laffont, Paris (1971), pp. 326-335

[2] Jean-Christian SPAHNI, Semblanza de Los Pueblos del Peru, Peruano-Suiza, Lima (1971), p. 12

[3] Maximilien BRUGGMANN & Simone WAISBARD, Die Kultur der Inkas, Atlantis, Zurich (1980), p. 20-21
        and Les Incas, Arthaud, Paris (1980), p. 20-21

[4] Léo DUBAL, Tactigraphy, a New Method for Recording Prehistorical Rock Engravings", INORA, 10 (1995), p. 23

[5[ James D. KEYSER, Indian Rock Art of the Columbia Plateau, U. Washington Press, Seattle (1992), p. 25




09/20/09 19:27