(this material is an excerpt from the book "The Message of the Stones", by Dr. Javier Cabrera)
ANOTHER HUMANITY EXISTED
THE ENGRAVED STONES OF ICA
It was the beginning of May, 1966. Felix Llosa Romero, my childhood friend, crossed the Plaza de Arras of Ica and arrived at ray home, where I regularly saw my patients. Felix Llosa Romero had in his right hand a small stone. "Iíve brought you a present", he said, "I thought it would make a pretty paperweight for your desk". When he handed it to me it felt surprisingly heavy. It was shaped like an oval, and it was engraved on one side with a carving of a fish I did not recognize. The stone struck me as most unusual (Fig. 1).
FIGURE 1: Small carved stone from Ica, the first that came into my possession.
This was the second carved stone I had seen. About thirty years earlier, when the land my father owned in Salas (a district of Ica) was being cleared for planting, the plow uncovered a similar stone. The workers said the stone had been carved by the Incas. They attributed the engraving to the Incas because it was common in this zone to find ceramics, metal and wood objects, textiles, and human remains of the ancient Peruvian civilizations that had inhabited the region (1). I remember that the stone the plow brought to light was decorated with a bird unknown to me. My father kept the stone. I was sixteen years old at the time and intended to enroll at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de "San Marcos" in Lima to study medicine. I was intrigued by the stone, but my studies quickly made me forget it, and I do not know what became of it...
My friend Felix Llosa Romero stood in my doorway as I pondered the possible origin of the stone he had just given me. I asked him where he had gotten it and he said his brother, who had a vast collection of such stones, had given it to him. This surprised me, because in Ica one was always hearing of ceramics, textiles, and other objects that from time to tine were found in Precolombian graves, but I have never heard of engraved stones. My surprise grew when Felix Llosa Romero added that for many years the huaqueros (2) of Ocucaje had been discovering a large number of these stones and had been selling them to archeology buffs. He also told me that Carlos and Pablo Soldi, who owned and lived on a plantation in Ocucaje, had the biggest collection of these stones that the architect Santiago Agurto Calvo had a collection, and that the Museo Regional of Ica had a few. I was perplexed.
Immediately I went to see Llosa's brother and caught a glimpse, for the first time, of the enormous range of these ancient engravings. I saw carvings of birds, lizards, spiders, snakes, fish, shrimp, frogs, turtles, llamas (3). I saw drawings of men. I saw both staple and elaborately executed scenes of hunting and fishing. I saw also that the animals represented had different characteristics from those of the species as we know them: there were snakes with small wings on their spines; birds with horns; insects with pincers as long as their bodies; fish covered with wings. The scenes seemed actually to move, as if they were being enacted for my benefit. The owner of this collection confirmed what his brother had told me of the provenance of the stones.
This first experience with the engraved stones of Ica truly engaged my interest: I felt profoundly the need for a scientific investigation to clarify their mysterious origin and relation to the classical cultures of ancient Peru.
Quite by chance about that time, something happened which made me think there was a possibility that such an investigation might be carried out with official support: I was asked to found and direct the Casa de Cultura of Ica, an institution devoted to the promotion of science and letters in the region. It would be affiliated with the Casa de Cultura del Peru in Lima.
With the authority of new position, the first thing I did was approach Adolfo Bermudez Jenkis, Director of the Museo Regional of Ica, and ask him to let me see the engraved stones that, according to my friend Llosa, were in the possession of the Museum, none of which, on numerous visits, could I ever recall having seen. The Director confirmed the existence of the stones, and called for them to be taken out of storage so I could inspect them. When I tried to interest him in the idea of an official study of the stones, he replied that this was not necessary, since a friend of his had told him they were carved by the same huaqueros who then sold them. I asked him if his friend's opinion was supported by laboratory tests, and again he replied that such tests were not called for.
To try to awaken the interest of Peruvian and visiting foreign scholars in the stones, I decided to form a collection of them to exhibit in the Casa de Cultura. With my own funds I began to acquire specimens, and eventually I accumulated over 5000. Some time afterwards I found out that to my surprise a year before my friend Llosa had given me my first stone, a student of Peru's past, Herman Buse, had published a book in which he acknowledged the existence of the Ica stones (4). Buse writes that in 1961 a flooding of the Ica River had uncovered, in the zone of Ocucaje, a large number of these stones, which ever since had been an object of commerce for the huaqueros who found them. He added that many of these stones had been acquired by the Soldi brothers, who had later tried again and again, in vain, to interest archeologists in a study.
On December 11, 1966, I read a Lima newspaper article by Santiago Agurto Calvo - then Rector of the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria - in which he noted the recent discovery of engraved stones in Pre-Incaic graves in the digs known as Max Uhle and Tomaluz, to the south of Ocucaje (5). The article said that one of the stones was carved on one side with the figure of a bird with outstretched wings, in full flight, carrying an ear of corn in its claws; another had a star-shaped design (Fig. 2). The discovery had been made in the company of Alejandro Pezzia Assereto, an archeologist from the Patronato Nacional de Archeologia del Peru, a trustee of the Museo Regional of Ica and in charge of archeological investigations in the region. Agurto Calvo concluded that the discoveries proved the authenticity of the Ica stones and that they promised to open new avenues of research. After the publication of this article, written by a prestigious intellectual, I felt certain that archeologists would finally take an interest in the stones. In the months that followed I waited impatiently for an influx of students of ancient Peru, but they did not come.
FIGURE 2: One of the Engraved Stones of Ica found by Santiago Agurto Calvo on August 20, 1966, in the prehispanic gravesite of Toaaluz, south of Ocucaje, in the hacienda of Callango, Ica.
While I waited, with my own collection of the stones before me, I set myself, somewhat idly at first, to try to discover the significance of the drawings. I had always had the feeling that the figures were not intended so much for artistic or decorative purposes as for the purpose of communicating aspects of the life of the human beings who had inhabited Peru in remote times. What I found as I continued to study the stones convinced me more and more each day that this had indeed been the intention.
Archaeologists say that humanity in Peru is 20000 years old and that only 3,000
years ago did it acquire a cultural level of any importance. Culturally the
Peruvians form very differentiated groups, distributed in different valleys of
the Peruviansí geography, and are referred to as Pre-Inca kingdoms or cultures.
The kingdom of Cusco, the Inca culture, is much more recent and it dominated the
others, some of which were by that time decadent, others having disappeared and
the rest having maintained their splendor. The Inca and Pre-Inca cultures are
called cultures of ancient Peru, Pre-Columbian cultures or Pre-Hispanic
cultures; in the last two cases to indicate the limit of their existence, due
respectively to the arrival of Columbus in America and the Spanish Conquerors in
Peru. Sometimes in this book I refer to them as the classical cultures of
ancient Peru, with the intention of stressing that they are from a recent past
and therefore do not correspond to the humanity which is the subject matter of
this book and which was spread throughout the world; and whose remains (the
engraved stones of Ica) are the proof that man's existence on Earth goes back
billions of years.
(2) Huaquero: One who illegally does excavations in search of archaeological treasures, an activity severely penalized by Peruvian laws to protect the archaeological heritage of the country. The word comes from the Quechua word: huaca, which was used to designate all that was sacred, especially certain places. Nowadays, along the Peruvian coast, the mounds which contain retains of Pre-Columbian cultures, are known as "huacas".
(3) Llama: Animal of the camel family, native to Peru.
(4) Herman Buse: INTRODUCCION AL PERU. Lima, 1965.
(5) Santiago Agurto Calvo: "Las piedras magicas de Ocucaje". In the supplement of the daily newspaper El Comercio. Lima, 11
BACK TO EXCERPT INDEX