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This web site, Andean Rock Art Papers, offers three pages with Rock Art Papers, all dealing with the Andes of South America. The first page has been labelled Part 1 in the menu-bar at the top op the web page, while the second and third pages are labelled Part 2 and Part 3.  Each page may contain several papers that can be found by scrolling down the page. In the future further papers will be published and they will then be accessible by first clicking on the relevant page (Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3 in the menu-bar at the top of this page) and then by scrolling down the page. A list of all published papers will appear on each page (also providing the format how to refer to each paper).

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Header photograph: The author at Alto de Pitis, Valle de Majes, Peru.

Part 2 - Paper 1: Van Hoek, M. 2013. A Petroglyph Panel from Socospampa, Caravelí, southern Peru. Andean Rock Art Papers; Part 2 - Paper 1.


Published: 21 - 12 - 2013

A Petroglyph Panel from Socospampa,

Caravelí, southern Peru


By Maarten van Hoek

Please notice that the text and all graphical material (except for the two photographs) is my copyright !



Rock art research has to cope with many problems. The legacy of ancient cultures is rapidly disappearing because of several destructive agents; both natural and anthropic. Another issue is that information about a specific rock art site or panel is often hard to get. One either has to visit the site oneself (which - in the Andes - can be quite a task, for instance when the site is tucked away in a remote place), or you have to depend on information from others. Obtaining information from other people (personal communications, published works and unpublished records) is often rather difficult and if one succeeds to get hold on information it often proves to be incomplete or even confusing. In this respect Mr. Edson Guerrero Rumaldo proved to be a most helpful exception. Because of his kind support, it is possible to present a detailed report about one specific petroglyph panel.

It proves that even a single photograph can be very valuable in rock art studies. First of all, every recording and thus every photograph of a rock art panel provides evidence of the legacy of ancient cultures. Secondly, a photograph may reveal interesting details that are often invisible in a drawing, especially when it concerns a monochromatic drawing. In this respect one specific photograph of a rock art panel from Socospampa, Caravelí, southern Peru, is the subject of this paper.


Caravelí Rock Art

Although the south of Peru is extremely rich in rock art, the Province of Caravelí, Department of Arequipa, seems to have been an almost forgotten corner in this respect. The Inventario Nacional published by Rainer Hostnig (2003) only lists six sites, but it proves that a few more rock art sites have once been reported. These rock art sites will be briefly mentioned here in order to show what is available. Most of the information in Hostnig (2003) is based on older records, which are not always reliable or complete. Additional information is often unavailable or inaccessible. Even the internet proves to have only very limited information about Caravelí rock art sites. Only a few on-line documents, blogs and videos offer (very limited) information. Yet, one specific petroglyph panel - a photograph of which is available on the internet (situation 2011) - drew my attention. This panel - called the Socospampa Panel in this paper - will be discussed in more detail. But first I will summarise Caravelí rock art, especially the sites in the Caravelí Valley.

The oldest record of rock art in Caravelí - although not mentioned or cited in any of the publications that I have available or consulted - dates from 1911. In that year the well known American explorer and discoverer of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham, includes the following record in his accounts of the Coropuna expedition (1912; 1922):

Leaving the pleasant shade trees of Caravelí, we climbed the barren, desolate hills of coarse gravel and lava rock and left the canyon. We were surprised to find near the top of the rise the scattered foundations of fifty little circular or oval huts averaging eight feet in diameter. There was no water near here. Hardly a green thing of any sort was to be seen in the vicinity, yet here had once been a village. It seemed to belong to the same period as that found on the southern slopes of the Parinacochas Basin. The road was one of the worst we encountered anywhere, being at times merely a rough, rocky trail over and among huge piles of lava blocks. Several of the larger boulders were covered with pictographs. They represented a serpent and a sun, besides men and animals.

On this occasion Hiram Bingham left the town of Caravelí for the Ocoña valley, located about 30 km further east. The ‘huts’ and the rock art he describes are located high up the slopes of Cerro Bombón. Unfortunately, there are several ‘hut’ complexes visible with Google Earth and thus the location of this site remains uncertain. Because another rock art site in Caravelí already is called Bombón (INC 2010), and also because the exact route that Bingham’s expedition took is uncertain, I took the liberty to call this 1911 rock art site Alto de Bombón (a name invented by me, although the Ordnance Survey Map 2239 show a name of Altos de Bombóm further north). I have marked the (very much approximated) location of this site (altitude about 2355 m O.D.) as number 9 on Figure 1.

Two Caravelí rock art sites might possibly refer to the Alto de Bombón petroglyph site as well, although I could not find any author referring to Hiram Bingham or his 1911 expedition. However, the fact that both sites mentioned in this paragraph are located around 1600 m O.D. argues against this possibility (those two sites have not been marked in Figure 1). The first is La Casa (Linares Málaga 2004: 33), which is said (Rainer Hostnig 2012: pers. com.) to be located En la margen derecha de una quebrada seca contigua a la carretera que conduce a las minas de Posco, entre el río Caravelí y las minas nombradas. A 1550 msnm, Distrito y provincia: Caravelí. Bibliografía: Ravines (1986: 16).

The second site is Quebrada Seca (de) Posco (Linares Málaga 2004: 39; 123). According to Rainer Hostnig (2012: pers. com.) the site: ‘Se extiende a lo largo de la quebrada en una extensión de 700 m. A 1650 msnm. Distrito y provincia: Caravelí. Bibliografía: Linares (1966: 19/21; 1979: 22; 1985: 36; 1992a: 272, 273, 341); Ravines (1986: 17)’. As the descriptions (and altitude) of La Casa and Quebrada Seca (de) Posco are more or less similar, they may concern the same site. Importantly, the Posco mines are in the Department of Camaná, to the west of the Ocoña Valley, but the road from Caravelí to the mines described in the La Casa entry crosses the area just south of Cerro Bombón in the Department of Caravelí and thus the first part of the track might have been the same as the track followed by Hiram Bingham (who, however, ended up at Callanga in Condesuyos, further north in Ocoña). If indeed Quebrada Seca Posco is the same site as the site called Quebrada de Seca that I found on the internet (now no longer available), it may as well be the only site in this area with simple rock paintings.


Figure 1. Locations (all very much approximated and uncertain) of the rock art sites in the Caravelí Valley of southern Peru. Map by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth.


A number of rock art sites have been reported in the Caravelí Valley (numbered 1 to 8 in Figure 1). As I have only very limited information about those seven or eight sites, they will only be very briefly mentioned/described. The Resolución Directoral Nacional No. 380, published by the INC - Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Perú - (INC 2010) declared that from 2010 five rock art sites in the Caravelí District should be considered to be Cultural Legacy of the Nation (Patrimonio Cultural de la Nácion). It concerned the following sites: Petroglifo 1, 2 and 3 (numbered 1, 2 and 3 in Figure 1) that are located according to the data in the 2010 declaration of the INC on the west side of the valley between the Pampa Atico and the Pampa Indio Viejo (altitude about 1850 m O.D.). The sites Petroglifo 1, 2 and 3 might also have been recorded as Pampa Indio Viejo (Hostnig 2003: 53; Linares Málaga 2004: 33), but that is uncertain. The other sites are Ananta (number 4 in Figure 1), also on the west bank (altitude about 1650 m O.D.), but directly overlooking the valley from nearby (Mincetur 2008c), and Chuicane/Bombón on the east bank (altitude about 1800 m O.D.). As the location of the latter site(s) is/are uncertain, I have marked it/them with two numbers (7 and 8 in Figure 1), but both locations may be incorrect.

The Inventario Nacional published by Rainer Hostnig (2003) also mentions petroglyph sites at Cuculí (2003: 45) on the east bank (number 6 in Figure 1) (altitude about 1600 m O.D.), which probably is the same as the Kukuli Complex in a YouTube video (Salinas Melendez 2010; Mincetur 2008a), and at Socospampa (number 5 in Figure 1; according to Edson Guerrero Rumaldo) on the west bank (altitude about 1625 m O.D.) (Hostnig 2003: 61; Linares Málaga 2004: 39, 87). Mincetur (2008b) also seems to mention petroglyphs at La Huarca, but this may concern another name for for instance Ananta or Socospampa which are ‘near’ La Huarca.

More rock art sites have been recorded in other parts of the Province of Caravelí, for instance the rock painting sites of Honda, Pampachacra and Checcheorco in the Atico District (Linares Málaga 2004: 21). Much further west two petroglyph sites - Tix Taca in the Yauca Valley and Lungumari Puntila in the Acari Valley - have been recorded (Ritter 1994). Rainer Hostnig informed me about two geoglyph sites, Paruna (or Puruna?) in the Chala District and Caleta de Puerto Viejo in the Cháparra District, but I do not consider geoglyphs to be a type of rock art (2012 pers. com.; referring to Linares Málaga).


The Socospampa Panel

Browsing the Internet I came across a document called Plan de Desarollo Distrital Concertado de Caravelí 2012 - 2021, published by the Municipalidad Provincial de Caravelí (Neyra Almenara 2012). Although rock art was not discussed in this publication, it features one photo of an unnamed petroglyph panel. After many attempts to get in contact with several officials in Caravelí in order to receive additional information about the panel, I was so fortunate to receive positive reactions from Edson Guerrero Rumaldo, an economist from Arequipa, who is the author of the photograph of the Socospampa Panel and who was able to inform me that the panel belonged to the Socospampa rock art site (2012: pers. com.). He kindly emailed me some high-resolution photographs (one reproduced in Van Hoek 2011: 93) that confirmed the importance of the site, and he also included the original, high-res photo of the Socospampa Panel (Figure 2), which has been reproduced here with his kind permission.

The photo of the Socospampa Panel offers interesting information. However, all of the following observations are based on one photograph of the petroglyph panel only, as I have not seen the site (or any other site in Caravelí for that matter).


Figure 2. The Socospampa Panel. Photograph © by Edson Guerrero Rumaldo, reproduced here with his kind permission.

Figure 3. The Socospampa Panel; a black-and-orange rendering. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on the photograph by Edson Guerrero Rumaldo.


The Socospampa Panel Zones

Scanning the photograph of (part of?) the Socospampa Panel (one of several at this site) revealed that the petroglyphs have been manufactured on a vertical rock surface; possibly part of a low cliff. The cliff continues to the left where three other, smaller petroglyph panels have been recorded by Edson Guerrero Rumaldo. Apparently the ancient artist(s) selected the smooth and flat surface to the right of a rougher part of the cliff (brown in Figure 5; blue is the sky). As there is no scale in the original photo, I cannot confirm the dimensions of the Socospampa Panel, but based on experience I estimate it to be about roughly 2 m in height and at least 2.5 m in width (as it may continue further to the right).


Figure 4. The Socospampa Panel; the Zones of weathering and patination. Drawing by Maarten van Hoek, using the photograph © by Edson Guerrero Rumaldo.


Figure 5. The Socospampa Panel; the differences between the patination of the petroglyphs. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on the photograph by Edson Guerrero Rumaldo.


What is interesting about the panel is that several zones of patination and weathering are visible. The uppermost part of the panel (Zone A in Figure 4) has a brown colour and is heavily patinated. Also the petroglyphs that are visible in this part (yellow in Figure 5) are equally deeply patinated and are only visible because they have been rather deeply executed. This part of the panel apparently has been exposed for a very long time.

Zone C is characterised by a reddish-purple colour (disregarding the chromatic uncertainties because no official IFRAO-scale was used when making the photo), while the almost un-patinated petroglyphs (blue in Figure 5) contrast sharply with the natural surface of the panel. Yet, some petroglyphs (black in Figure 5 and in Figure 6, especially numbers 5 and 16) have even less patinated and may represent the most recent additions. Confirming a later date is the fact that Petroglyph 16 has partially been superimposed upon Petroglyph 7. It is most likely that blown sand and/or fluvial deposits once accumulated against this part of the cliff and remained there for a long time The area between Zone A and C (Zone B) is characterised by a different colouring; the contact zone where different chemical processes may have taken place.

A similar ‘sub-zone’ (Zone D) with bands of different patination is found between Zone C and Zone E indicating perhaps that different stages of exposure and covering-up have occurred. In Zone E, that has a ‘dirty’ grey to light-brown colouring, only a few very much weathered petroglyphs (green in Figure 5) are found showing almost the same degree of patination as the surrounding rock surface. It is unknown to me whether the uncovering of the once covered parts (B, C, D and E) was caused by natural or anthropic processes.


The Petroglyphs

Unfortunately the photograph of the Socospampa Panel does not show the whole panel and possibly the petroglyphs continue further to the right and perhaps even further down. It is certain however that to the left there are three more, smaller petroglyph panels forming part of the same low cliff. These have not been discussed here since they do not show differences in weathering and patination.

There are 19 images or groups of markings represented in Figure 6. About four petroglyphs (numbered 5, 7, 12 and 14 in Figure 6) may represent anthropomorphic figures; the most dominant figure being the large, fully frontally depicted (male?) anthropomorph (number 7). Petroglyph group 1 is enigmatic but it may symbolise a copulation scene. It is the only ensemble that is found in all Zones of weathering, which may point to the probability that most petroglyphs are contemporary. Zoomorphs are represented by petroglyphs 3 (feline), 4 (bird), 8 (snake), 9 (fish?; this petroglyph is cut off by the edge of the photo), 16 (quadruped, partially superimposed upon the big anthropomorph 7); 17 (quadruped) and 11 and 18 (possible quadrupeds). Petroglyphs 2, 5 (enclosing possible anthropomorphic figure 5), 6, 10, 11, 13 and 15 are abstract symbols or markings, while the group of linear lines at the bottom of the panel (19) may represent modern scratching (possibly an attempt to write something). Although the collection of images clearly dates from different eras, there are some images (4, 7 and 17) that can be linked with the Majes Rock Art Style (mainly represented by Toro Muerto and Alto de Pitis in Majes). Also some Majes Style petroglyphs to the left of the panel (of a feline and a bird; not shown in Figures 2 to 6) confirm this link.


Figure 6. The Socospampa Panel; the numbering of the individual petroglyphs and markings. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on the photograph by Edson Guerrero Rumaldo.




I am indebted to Mr. Edson Guerrero Rumaldo from Arequipa, Perú, for sharing photographs of the Socospampa rock art site with me, and for kindly allowing me to reproduce the photo of the Socospampa Panel (Figures 2 and 4) in this article.


Bingham. H. 1912. The Ascent of Coropuna. Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Vol. 125; Number 741-45: pp 489–502. Henry Mills Alden, editor.

Bingham. H. 1922.
Inca Land, Explorations in the Highlands of Peru. The Riverside Press Cambridge. Boston and New York.

Hostnig, R. 2003. Arte rupestre del Perú. Inventario Nacional. CONCYTEC, Lima, Perú.

I.N.C. 2010. Resolución Directoral Nacional No. 380 / INC. A PDF-file can be downloaded via this link: RDN 380.

Linares Málaga, E. 2004. Arte rupestre en Arequipa y el sur del Perú. Editorial Nuevo Milenio, Arequipa.

Mincetur. 2008a. Kukuli.

Mincetur. 2008b. La Huraca.

Mincetur. 2008c. Ananta.

Neyra Almenara, S. 2012. Plan de Desarollo Distrital Concertado de Caravelí 2012 - 2021. Municipalidad Provincial de Caravelí.

Ritter, E. W. 1994 An Analysis of Mural Art and Rock art Sites in the Acari and Yauca valleys of Southern Peru. In: American Indian Rock Art. Vol. 13/14: pp 63 - 75. ARARA. Flagstaff, Arizona and St. George, Utah. El Toro, California, USA.

Salinas Melendez, F. 2010.YouTube: Turismo en Caravelí.

Van Hoek, M. 2011. Rumimantam Llaqllasaq Wirpuykita: The ‘Cycle of Life’ in the Rock Art of the Desert Andes. Oisterwijk, the Netherlands. BLURB


yet to be published