Recently Discovered Rock Paintings May Change Machu Picchu's History as We Know It

Machu Picchu. Image on Flickr by user Dan Doan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Machu Picchu. Image on Flickr by user Dan Doan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Considered a masterpiece of architecture and engineering, Machu Picchu, declared one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007, never ceases to amaze.

On July 4, Pedro Astete, director of national archaeological park of Machu Picchu, reported the finding of two new rock paintings, close to the ruins of the most famous Inca city in the world:

La figura de una llama, un hombre, y encima de ellos una imagen geométrica, fueron encontradas en la zona de Pachamama, en el camino de acceso a la zona arqueológica de Machu Picchu.
En […] 1912, fueron descubiertas 4 tumbas por la segunda expedición peruana de la Universidad de Yale, bajo la dirección de Hiram Bingham. No obstante, hasta la fecha [las imágenes] habían pasado [desapercibidas].

The image of a llama, a man and above both of them a geometric figure, were found in the area of Pachamama, on the access path to the archaeological area of Machu Picchu.
In […] 1912, the second Peruvian expedition of Yale University, under the direction of Hiram Bingham, discovered four tombs. Until today, however, [the images] had gone [unnoticed].

There are plans to carry out more digs in the area, which for the time being is not accessible to the general public. The images discovered have to be further examined to know for sure, but Peru's Tourism Portal reports that they might be from an era before the Incas:

Este descubrimiento podría cambiar la historia que se conoce del complejo arqueológico, ya que las figuras encontradas dan pistas sobre una población anterior a los incas.
Así lo manifestó José Bastante, responsable del programa de investigaciones del santuario, quien dijo que esto “podría demostrar que el lugar tenía un significado especial para personas anteriores a los incas. Las investigaciones recién están empezando”.

José Bastante, who is responsible for the sanctuary investigation program, said this finding might change the known history of the archaeological complex, as the figures might give clues about populations who lived before the Inca era.

Bastante also claimed that this “may prove that the place had a special meaning for peoples before the Incas. Investigations have just started.”

The news wasn't free of controversy. According to some versions, this is not a new finding at all. One website called Archaeology of Peru claimed photos taken in 2009 of the place show the paintings:

Esas pinturas son conocidas desde hace mucho tiempo y son fáciles de ver pues están a la vera del camino de Intipunku. Nosotros tenemos fotografías de ellas tomadas hace casi veinte años y son varios los guías de turismo que están enterados de su existencia. […] Incluso mencionamos estas pinturas en un informe geológico sobre los deslizamientos de Machupicchu a inicios de este siglo.

These paintings have been well known for a long time and they can be easily seen as they are located near the road of Intipunku. We have photographs taken almost 20 years ago and there are several tourist guides who are aware of their existence. […] We even mention these paintings on a geological report about the landslides in Machupicchu in the early 2000s.

Predictably, the news was echoed on Twitter, such as in a tweet by the US-based Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, which shared a photograph of the paintings:

New rock paintings found in Machu Picchu.

The discovery renewed general interest in all things Machu Pichu online, and news outlets and ordinary Twitter users alike repeatedly made mention of two videos which show different spots within the archaeological site. One of them, produced in the 1940s, collects images from a series of places of archaeological value in Cusco, such as Ollantaytambo, Písac, as well as in Juliaca and Arequipa. The video is part of a collection at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The user who shared it pointed out the large amount of cultural diversity already seen in the region during the that time period.

The video below is from 1936 and had remain unseen until now. It's a tour around different sites of Machu Picchu with typical Andean musical in the background.


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