Thursday, November 1, 2018

Searching Imbabura and Cotacachi Mountains in Ecuador

While Ecuador has 27 potentially active volcanoes, such as Cayambe, Reventador, Guagua Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Sangay, Chacana and numerous others, the non-active stratovolcano Cerro Imbabura is still a significant mountain in north central Ecuador at 15,190-feet elevation, near the Colombia border. The conical mount is intermittently capped with snow but has no permanent glaciers, and though it has not erupted for many thousands of years, it is not thought to be extinct.
In 1880, while traveling in Ecuador, looking for artifacts and historical sites, Edward Whymper (left), an English mountaineer, explorer, illustrator, and author best known for the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, was told wherever he went that if he wanted artifacts, he should travel to Cerro Imbabura in the Imbabura Basin up north where there were great numbers of artifacts just lying about on the ground.   

Upon heading north, Whymper found that a large part of this region was dominated by the mountains Mojanda, Cotacachi and Imbabura, with the slopes of Imbabura extending outward from the hill toward Lake San Pablo to the south, the town of Iluman to the west, and around to the north toward Ibarra.
The three mountains that mark the area of the Imbabura Basin, the cities and lakes located there

In fact, the area within these three mountains is considered the most fertile ad cultivated in the region of the Imbabura Basin. An earthquake hit between Imbabura and Ibarra during the night of August 16, 1868, opening chasms into which disappeared large portions of villages, with only about two dozen houses in Ibarra remaining after the short, devastating earthquake struck. Since the occurrence was shallow, that is not far beneath the surface, which is attested to by the lack of peripheral damage on the surface (if it had been deeper, the circle of influence would have been greater), the damage was centered to a small area.
    Very large rifts and openings appeared, called earthquake quebradas (uneven, cracked, zigzag crevices) opened up throughout the land between Cotacachi, Otovalo, Mt. Imbabura and Ibarra). The numerous cuts now seen here in the land were not created by upheaval (uplift) that would result in ground heaves and swells, but by ground subsidence (sinking), for there were no normal irregularities in the land as found from upheaval, but by the earth being divided during a quake or quakes when the earth was in a state of tension.
    In fact, the ground shock traveled all the way to the mountains of Colombia, which shut in the province of Imbabura like a wall, and rebounded back toward Ibarra. Fifteen to twenty years afterward, the numerous villages around the earthquake area were still in a very ruinous condition from the terrible effects of the quake. No doubt, during occurrence, the underground silts and clays were reduced considerably and the ground aquifers suffered lasting damage. One quebrades was six miles long. Others, which existed long before the 1868 occurrence, are very old and others were formed in the memory of man.
    About 250 miles to the west is Mt. Cotacachi, which appears conical from the south, but from the northeast is pyramidal in shape. Toward the summit, where strong, gusty winds blow ceaselessly, the mount is filled with cracks and fissures and the ground becomes extremely rugged. The east face of the mount, overlooking the Imbabura Basin, rises sharply and becomes precipitous, though the west side is less abrupt, but generally covered with snow.
    The summit of Cotacachi is a pointed peak of lava, broken up by frost, extremely steep toward the top, and as a result, had little snow. There is an abundance of hearty lichen and moss among the summit rocks, with grasses on the very highest point, growing and flourishing some two thousand feet above their normal growth range despite most of the year this being below freezing temperatures and the ground hard frozen (Edward Whymper, Travels Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator, John Murray Publisher, London, 1892, pp248-260)
Believed to be weapons, these “Stars of Stone” would have caused considerable damage when thrown, striking an enemy in the head or arms and legs, much like stones from a slingshot

It was Whymper who first discovered a certain type of artifact, found nowhere else but in Ecuador, which he called “Stars of Stone,” and believed to have been weapons. He first encountered them during his expedition to Ecuador in 1880, these artifacts were found almost everywhere around the hills and flatlands of Imbabura and Cotacachi, so many were found that Whymper wrote in his journal: “It was embarrassing by the very quantity of these war-like circular stone finds.” The stones had no more than six extending points arrayed around the periphery, sometimes but five.
    Hundreds were found around Imbabura and the flatlands around Imbabura, as well as around Mt. Cotacachi is also flat, but extremely rent and riven with fissures intersecting one another irregularly and forming a perfect maze of impassable clefts of earthquake quebradas. This bifid land was divided into two parts, with a deep cleft or notch running between them.
    The stones had no more than six extending points arrayed around the periphery, sometimes but five, and though were similar in design, no two were exactly alike. They range from three to five inches in diameter, and from three-quarters of an inch to two inches in thickness, weighing between five and twenty ounces. While the larger ones were made from basaltic rock and gabbro, some were also cast in metal.
    Whymper noted that during his travels through the area, natives had been collecting artifacts and using them as hanging ornaments, or charms worn by women, or used as weights by weavers on their looms, or as toys by children. While most natives knew of their existence, all were genuinely surprised to learn that there were so many after Whymper’s massive collection of such artifacts.
Bronze morning star that was placed on the end of a shaft and wielded as a club in Ecuador as a formidable weapon

It is interesting that two such “stars” were found in Cuzco, Peru, with one attached to a hatchet, suggesting “it must have been a war-club or battle-axe” (J.M. Gilliss, “Report of the U.S. Naval Astronomical Expedition to the Southern Hemisphere during the years 1849-1852,” United states Naval Astronomical Expedition, vol.ii, Washington, 1855, p.138). In fact, numerus writers have written about these stars imbedded in clubs and that many skulls were found with “the larger part seemed to have been broken by blows from some such weapons” (Ephraim George Squier, Peru: Incidents of Travel and Exploration, Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1877, p177).
    Charles Wiener, an Austrian-French scientist-explorer and diplomat, who was sent to the Andes to gather artifacts, gives a figure of a star which was found at Ancon, near Lima, showing a stick inserted in the central hole and another handled bronze star weapon (Wiener, Pérou et Bolivie, Paris, 1880, p685).
    Additional writers, W. Reiss and A. Stübel, reported that “the few stone objects found here show but slight traces of workmanship, an exception being a stone weapon of the ‘Morning Star’ type—the six-rayed stone star here found once only, is elsewhere in Peruvian graves by no means rare” (W. Reiss and A. Stübel, The Necropolis of Ancon in Peru, 3 Volumes, A. Asher & Co., Berlin, 1880-1887). In fact, E. George Squier called these weapons “casse-têtes,” which means “war club,” but is freely translated as “nut-cracker.”
    In all, these “morning star” weapons were clubs adorned with a spiked or pointed ball or plate, used as a blunt-force and puncture attack to kill or wound an enemy. In 1880, when Whymper traveled to Ecuador, following several others who have written about these weapon and the vast number of such artifacts as weapons were easily found upon the ground, this English explorer concluded that “These objects were more numerous than any other kinds which were obtained, and are found everywhere. We should therefore be led to conclude that a great part of the population was provided with offensive weapons.”
    It might also be noted that Squier noted in his book that these “Morning Star” weapons found all over Ecuador, were not found in Peru, even northern Peru. One might wonder if the stars were equated to the Jaredites, and not the Nephites or Lamanites.

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