Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Horseman of Alto de Pitis – Part III

Continuing with the previous post on the pre-Columbian rock art in Alto de Pitis, which depicts a man on a horse, holding a spear in one hand and the reins in the other before the Spanish arrived. 
    The first thing we need to keep in mind is that the images and the method of their depiction matches precisely the other pre-Columbian rock art found on the surrounding boulders. The second thing is that the first reaction of the discoverer was that it had to be post-Columbian rock art. Why? Because everyone knows there were no horses in the Americas before the Spanish arrived.
Top: An Example of the Spanish arrival is found in North America, where there is an abundance of horse drawings in rock art, such as this horseman petroglyph on the Newspaper rock, Utah; Bottom Left: Blue Bull Cave, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona; Bottom Right: Meyers Springs along the Pecos River in Texas
    It is assumed by “experts” that all rock art in North America depicting horses and men riding horses is all post-Columbian era. In fact, when these rock art areas were first found, the caves or areas in which they were located were all “dated” to a post-Columbian period based solely on the man riding a horse.
    This mentality has caused the depiction of “The Horseman of Alto de Pitis” to be labeled “post-Columbian,” even though it has been found in a strictly pre-Columbian rock art find where all other rock art seen is definitely pre-Columbian. It is also interesting that while there is considered a dearth of examples of men on horseback throughout southern Peru and Chile, the few found are generally listed as camelids or llamas, yet the known llamas in South America will pack (carry) only 100 to 120 pounds, the latter for only short distances, and men, especially the native cultures of the Andes are basically heavy-set, making them far heavier than the llama or camelids will carry on horseback.
Examples of pre-Columbian rock art showing horses in Southern Peru
    This is why this drawing in Alto de Pitis is so important, for it definitely shows a horse and rider, and is among 100% of pre-Columbian rock art in an area of seldom traversed desert country, which is neither on the way to or from any areas of importance. Even today, it is a long, out-of-the-way-trip for archaeologists to go see these boulders, and few bother to make the effort since they have such a disdainful view of rock art to begin with--but what a story, horse and rider in pre-Columbian art.
    In fact, in the entire area of the western parts of the Andes, it is surprising to see in these deserts (the area from the Sechura Desert in the north of Peru to the Atacama in the north of Chile) only very few examples of riders have been reported, notwithstanding the fact that numerous rock art sites have been recorded in this area. Furthermore, most examples are found in the very southern (Chilean) part of this extremely dry desert.
    And those that are found, automatically are “seen” as riding camelids and llamas. Examples of ‘llamas’ and riders have been reported from the semi-desert south of Copiapó in central Chile, for instance in the valley of the Río Hurtado, 55 km ENE of Ovalle (Ballereau and Niemeyer 1999: Figs 39D and E; 40B) and at the petroglyph site of El Coligüe, 50-miles south of Ovalle (Guerra Terra 2012). Further north and located in the heart of the Atacama Desert, examples have been reported from the Ayquina-Caspana area in the drainage of the Río Loa (Gallardo et al. 1990; Arenas and Martínez 2009). 
    An interesting mix of ‘riders’ and ‘camelids’ occurs at the Quinchamale site near Santa Bárbara rock art complex, also on the Río Loa in northern Chile (see also Berenguer 1999: 47). This petroglyph concentration is located alongside a Pre-Columbian trail for pack animals, llamas, and later used for mules and horses. Two panels with riders are of interest. Panel BARn-005B has possibly three quadrupeds with a ‘rider’. On this particular area, the rock art is obviously not camelids and reluctantly they claim “The animals may concern Pre-Columbian images.”
    On the other hand, Panel A, is said to have a row with Roman letters and two outlined images of unequivocal post-Columbian ‘horses’ that are ridden by a human. How are they determined as post-Columbian horses? Because they are definitely horses and those did not exist in South America until after the Spanish arrived, right?
Yellow Arrow: Man mounted on horseback; White Arrow: 1875-1880 carved into the rock. Called the horseman petroglyph Boulder BARn-007, Quinchamale Gorge, Santa Bárbara, Río Loa, northern Chile
    Sometimes explanations defy description, especially when it is said, “More revealing is nearby Boulder BARn-007 (left). It has some Pre-Columbian petroglyphs but also a clear example of a Post-Columbian, laterally depicted petroglyph of a horseman (yellow arrow points to mounted man on a horse). It is claimed this drawing was made in 1875-1880. Now it seems rather odd that a Spaniard in 1875 would take the extensive time to incise into rock the depiction of a man on a horse with a spear when pencils and paper were available in that age and likely carried to some extent by most cowboys for tally-keeping, note-taking or even drawing of a scene. Nor is it conceivable that one of the indigenous natives, who were little more than slaves at the time, would have had the time to sit by this rock and draw himself hunting wild game. And what Spaniard would have used Roman Numerals? And what Indian would have even known them?
    In addition, between 1875-1880 when the rock is inscribed with a date, Peru and Chile were at war with one another, and this area of desert was the land over which the battles were fought, in addition, Spain was trying to infiltrate the land with Spaniards trying to reassert its power over these newly formed countries, and Peru and Bolivia were aligned against Chile, with these areas where the rock art are located being the contested areas in which battles took place. Hardly seems the time nor place for leisurely art work incising rock with designs.
    It is interesting that about half of the article was spent in trying to make a case for why the post-Columbian horse was in a pre-Columbian rock art complex among thousands of petroglyphs that were all pre-Columbian. According to the article’s author, “Strangely, the abundant rock art sites north of the Río Loa have only one example or—in most cases—not a single instance of Post-Columbian equestrians,” which must mean there are no other examples of man on horseback, which would automatically place the rock art in the post-Columbian colonial period.
Tarapacá-47, a site in northern Chile also located on a major caravan trail and featuring more than 400 decorated boulders, has only one simple petroglyph of a horseman (Figure 5) (Núñez and Briones 1968: 52, Fig. XIII-b).
    Most significant is the spear carried by the Horseman at Alto de Pitis. This weapon is only very rarely depicted in the Post-Columbian rock art of the Andes and again most examples occur at the eastern side. There is a scene of a ‘rider’ pointing a stick or a spear at a bowman in front of him at the petroglyph site of Sapagua in NW Argentina (Martínez 2009) more than 1000 km SE of Alto de Pitis. Rock paintings of riders with hats and lances have also been reported at the Chirapaca site in the Department of La Paz, Bolivia, located 425 km east of Alto de Pitis and - like Sapagua - east of the continental watershed (Taboada Téllez 1992: Figs 11, 45 and 53). However, only two riders hold an object with a distinct spear head (1992: Figs 45 and 53). 
    When focusing on the western part of the Central Andes it proves that only very few examples of spear-carrying horsemen occur. At Ayquina on the Río Loa in northern Chile (798 km SE of Alto de Pitis) petroglyphs have been recorded of anthropomorphs (most likely riding camelids) that are holding linear objects that might be spears or sticks or even whips (Arenas Campos 2011: Figs 2c and 47b). Furthermore, Arenas Campos (2011: Fig. 47a) suggests (2011: 155) that a rider petroglyph from Turulaca in southern Peru (a petroglyph site about 235 km SE of Alto de Pitis with a few examples of riders (see also: Picasaweb)  is also carrying a spear. However, the object at Turulaca - on Boulder 13 - is only a simple line, held upright instead of pointing at the anthropomorph standing in front of the rider. It is therefore uncertain if the object is indeed a spear; it equally may be a whip or a stick.
    The point is there are numerous rock art examples of horses and men on horseback that require significant interpretation by the “expert” as to determine in what time frame the drawings occurred. Whether or not they occurred pre- or post-Columbian is a matter of constant agreement and disagreement among those who study the work. But some, like at Alto de Pitis are definitely pre-Columbian if for no other reason than being among thousands of pre-Columbian rock art. And it all boils down to personal opinion, which always errs on the side of mainstream, i.e., there were no horses in America before the Spanish arrived. Yet, we see them in what would normalyl be unquestioned pre-Columbian art if only the subject was not believed to be post-Columbian.

1 comment:

  1. Are you aware of any fossil horse bones found in South America?