The words of Dr. Cabrera


A visit with Dr. Cabrera


(this material is an excerpt from the book "The Message of the Stones", by Dr. Javier Cabrera)



It was in the month of May, l967, and one day I selected from my collection 33 stones, among them a few that showed the reproductive cycle of long-extinct animals, which I knew would be controversial if their authenticity could not be established.

I went to my friend Luis Hochshild, a learned mining engineer and Vice-President of the Mauricio Hochshild Mining Co., based in Lima. I asked if his laboratories could perform an analysis that would determine the nature of the stone and the antiquity of the engravings. At the beginning of June I received a report from the laboratory, in a document signed by the geologist Eric Wolf which stated:

This is unquestionably natural stone shaped by fluvial transport (river rock).

Petrologically I would classify them as andesites. Andesites are rocks whose components have been subjected mechanically to great pressure which causes chemical changes to take place. In this case the effects of intense sericitation (transformation of feldspar into sericite) are obvious. This process has increased the compactness and specific weight, also creating the smooth surface that ancient artists preferred for carving.

I will try to confirm this preliminary opinion by means of a more detailed test in the laboratories of the Engineering School and of the University of Bonn, West Germany.

The stones are covered with a fine patina of natural oxidation which also covers the engravings by which their age should be able to be deduced.

I have not been able to find any notable or irregular wear on the edges of the incisions which leads me to suspect that these incisions or etchings were executed not long before being deposited in the graves or other places where they were discovered.

Lima, 8 June 1967.
Eric Wolf

This analysis revealed three important facts: a) The engraved stones have a highier specific gravity than common river rocks found in riverbeds and beaches, which I had guessed as soon as I first held one in my hand; b) The engravings are old, to judge by the coating of natural oxidation that covers the incisions as well as the stones themselves; and c) The stones were engraved not long before being deposited in the spots where they were found, to judge by the absence of wear on the edges of the incisions, which means that the stones were not engraved for utilitarian or even artistic purposes, but rather to be deposited in a safe place - for some unknown reason.

One year before, Santiago Agurto Calvo had published the results of a petrological analysis of the engraved stones in his collection. These results were part of the newspaper article mentioned earlier, in which he discussed the discovery of engraved stones in the Ocucaje zone (12). Specifically, the article dealt with some specimens that he had purchased in 1962 from huaqueros which, according to him, contained "unidentifiable things, insects, fish, birds, cats, fabulous creatures and human beings, sometimes apart and other times shown together in elaborate and fantastic compositions". He had entrusted the analysis to the mining Faculty of the Universidad Nacional de Ingeneira and it had been performed by two engineers, Fernando de las Casas and Cesar Sotillo. Since the analysis I had commissioned promised that the preliminary study would be followed up by a closer examination in the laboratories of the Universidad Nacional de Ingeneira de Peru and the University of Bonn, I decided to compare the analysis of my stones with that of the stones of Agurto. The analysis of Agurto's stones read:

All the stones are highly carbonized andesites, despite their coloration and texture, which suggest a different nature.

The stones come from lava flows dating from the Mesozoic era, characteristic of the zone where they were found.

The surface has weathered, and feldspar has been turned into clay, weakening the surface and forming a kind of shell around the interior of the stones.

This shell measures an average of grade 3 on the Mohs scale (which measures the comparative capacity of a substance to scratch another or be scratched by another) and up to 4 1/2 in the part not so affected by weathering. The stones can be worked with any hard material such as bone, shell, obsidian, etc., and naturally, by any prehispanic metal implement.

As he says in his article, Agurto Calvo specified in his instructions to the laboratory that he wished to know the hardness of the stones. He thought that if they were very hard it would have been impossible for them to have been carved by prehispanic man (Incas and Pre-Incas), since these people did not have hard metal inplements. If the laboratory confirmed that the stones could have been carved with the tools known to prehispanic man, which it did, Agurto was prepared to conclude that they were indeed of prehispanic origin.

Agurto, following in the traditional path of Peruvian archeology, which does not admit the possibility of an advanced culture earlier than the well known prehispanic cultures, assumed that Peruvian prehistory extends only as far back as the Incas and the Pre-Incas. This explains why he ignored various clues he had to hand that could have led him to suspect the existence of a more distant cultural horizon in Peru. I refer to the laboratory tests he solicited, which show that the stones come from lava flows pertaining to the Mesozoic era, characteristic of Ocucaje, where the stones were found. We know that Mesozoic rocks date from 230 million years ago. And although this date is far removed from the accepted date of the appearance of man on earth (250,000 years ago), it is not scientific to dismiss the possibility that the engraved stones are evidence of the existence of man in a previous, unknown past. He was also led to ignore the implications of the "unidentifiable things"... engraved on the stones and mentioned in his own article. Scientific dogma regarding the living things which inhabited the earth in the different geological eras should have alerted Agurto that such "fabulous figures and human beings... shown together in elaborate and fantastic compositions", were not products of the imagination of the men who carved them, but represented real animals that long ago lived on the earth.

Both sets of laboratory results fit in with my own observations everything pointed to the possibility that man coexisted with prehistoric animals. At the very least, it seemed clear that the stones had unusual archeological significance. I was convinced that this significance could most rapidly be appreciated with the collaboration of Peruvian archeologists, so I decided to publish the results of my investigations to awaken their interest and to set in motion a plan to preserve the Ocucaje zone and stop the illegal removal of the stones from the region, a commerce in which had been carried on since 1961 under the noses of unconcerned local authorities. I began to give lectures, interviews, and to publish in the periodical press, and the results of my investigations were disseminated throughout Peru and beyond. At the first convention of Directors of Departmental Cultural Centers held in June 1968 in Ica, I spoke of the necessity to study the engraved stones. I wanted especially to reach these Directors, to gain their support for the sort of official investigation by the Casa de Culture of Peru which I had proposed earlier, and which had been met with silence. The convention expressed its unanimous support and I noted with pleasure the enthusiasm that the stones inspired.

In December of that year, as 1 was preparing my case for official authorization to effect systematic excavations in the archeological zone of Ocucaje, I was relieved of my position as Director of the Casa de Cultura of Ica in a general reorganization of the country's cultural centers. Nonetheless, I decided to allow my collection to continue to be exhibited in the Casa de Cultura of Ica. But then something happened which made me think twice about leaving my collection at the disposal of the new Director: I found out that I was to be succeeded by the Director of the Museo Regional of Ica. I remembered my conversation with him nearly two and a half years ago when I had gone to the Museo Regional to ask about that institution's collection of engraved stones. I remembered that this collection was not on display, but was hidden away in a vault. And I remembered the Director's opinion that laboratory tests on the stones were unnecessary since a friend of his had assured him that the stones were manufactured by the peasants of Ocucaje. Finally, fearing that the 6,000 stones that I had managed to collect would be locked away, I moved them to my home. So that they could continue to be available to interested visitors, I converted my consulting room and a few other rooms into display areas, which over the years I remodeled to form what is today "the Museum of Engraved Stones of Ica. Thus I became their custodian as well as their student.

    It was becoming increasingly clear to me that I should harbor no illusions that archeologists and cultural authorities employed by the central government were suddenly going to take an interest in studying the stones. Eight years had passed since the existence of the stones was first made public (in 1961), and those who should have come forward to examine the stones, at the very least to determine their antiquity, had instead ignored them. This attitude could only mean that the scientific community assumed that the stones were of no particular value. The incredulity of specialists and other persons who claimed the right to an opinion was epitomized in a curious phenomenon: When the stones first began to appear they were known as the "engraved stones of Ocucaje", but when I began disseminating material that revealed their extraordinary archeological value, they came to be called, half in distain, half-jokingly, "Cabrera's stones". This falsely implied that the stones had not existed until I began to take an interest in them, and deliberately concealed the references to them made by Herman Buse and Santiago Agurto Calvo.

In the preceding pages I have observed that the figures carved on the stones separate themselves into different themes, and each theme is carried forward in a series of stones. In light of general indifference on the part of the experts (who ought to have been taking pains to see that the stones were collected, organized, and protected), I worried that continuing commerce in the stones would hopelessly disperse them and make reconstruction of these thematic series quite impossible. I had no choice but to expand my own collection. I would have liked to reunite all the stones in possession of collectors in Ica and Lima, as well as the many specimens that were (and still are being sold daily by the huaqueros of Ocucaje, but this was beyond my limited financial means, especially considering the inflated prices that collectors were likely to demand before they could consider parting with their collections.

My concern that the information contained in the stones should not be lost translated into the near-doubling of the holdings of my Museum, to 11,000 specimens. I arranged them all into series, managing in the process not only to fill gaps in my first sets of series, but also to discover entirely new themes. The variety of prehistoric animals was enormous, though I was limited to identifying only those familiar to me from my study of paleontology, the notion that man had lived in the remote past was expanded to include the corollary that this was a people with an amazing knowledge of science and technology. Among other things were rendered maps of the cosmos, a zodiac, a calendar, planetary maps, maps showing the continents, instruments for study of the cosmos and for study of the microscopic world, machines for flying and launching flights, advanced surgical techniques (organ transplants) and surgical implements, animal and human embriology, parasitology, ritual dances, and musical instruments. In short, my museum came to house a testimonial in stone to man's earliest presence on Earth.

On January 28, 1969 I received word from Eric Wolf that the results of the laboratory analysis conducted by a Professor Frenchen and his assistants at the University of Bonn were available. He had sent some of the same samples from my collection which he had analyzed in Lima, and the results of this second analysis merely confirmed his own: The stones were andesite and were covered by a patina or film of natural oxidation which also covered the etchings, permitting one to deduce that they are very old. The report added that it was difficult to determine precisely their antiquity, and that in this task the comparative methods used in stratigraphy and paleontology should be employed.

As regards the comparative methods of stratigraphy, Wolf pointed out the need for excavations, in order to establish in which geological strata the stones are found. The antiquity of the strata would determine, by the principle of association, the antiquity of the engravings. The comparative method of paleontology works much the same way: The age of fossilized vegetable, animal and human remains found in the strata where the stones were found could be determined, and by the same principle of association, could determine the approximate date at which the engravings were executed.

In view of the fact that the patina of oxidation that covered the stones proved the general but not precise antiquity of the engravings, and in view of the fact that precision could only be had by using the comparative methods of stratigraphy and paleontology, I requested authorization in April 1970 from the Patronato Nacionial de Arqueologia to carry out excavations in the appropiate zone. This institution alone had the power to authorize such excavations. On July 16, 1970, my request was refused. Thus the only means of dating the Engraved Stones of Ica was closed to me. All that was left was to concentrate on my study of the system of expression used by this ancient people who chose to carve messages in stone.



(12) Agurto Calvo, Ibid.