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The symbolism of the petroglyphs of Toro Muerto and the geoglyphs of Aplao

The symbolism of the petroglyphs of Toro Muerto and the geoglyphs of Aplao
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Approximately three hours by bus from the city of Arequipa, in Peru, is the town of Corire, in the Camaná River valley. About 40 minutes away from the town there is a huge desert-mountainous area with thousands of rocks and rock shelters. It is the place where there are the most petroglyphs in the world.

Because of recent customs related to cattle farming, the area was called Toro Muerto.

Some archaeological and iconographic evidence proves that the petroglyphs of Toro Muerto are not very ancient, but rather date back to 800 AD. According to some scholars, the influence of the Huari culture on the sculpted signs of Toro Muerto is predominant. This conclusion was reached after the observation and study of some petroglyphs whose complexity and geometricity refer to the Huari style, used in ceramics and fabrics.

In Toro Muerto there are petroglyphs of many types. Anthropomorphic figures abound, the most frequent example of which is the “dancing” human. These humanoids are often represented with masks or helmets that were typical of the Huari culture.

In addition, there are some petroglyphs that illustrate hunting or war scenes. In one, very particular, a very impressive skeletal humanoid is shown, which could mean that the subject in question was sick or close to death.

Very numerous are the zoomorphic petroglyphs of birds, snakes and quadrupeds (llamas and felines, among others). Commonly, birds are associated with the sky world, symbolized by the Sun, reptiles with the underworld, and quadrupeds with the real world.

The symbolism of the petroglyphs of Toro Muerto and the geoglyphs of Aplao
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According to other linear and non-vertical interpretations, the reptile or snake would denote the world of the past, quadruped animals (mammals, but also frogs, a symbol of fertility), would allude to the current world, while birds would mean the world of the future (some of them, like geese, were revered for being able to fly, swim and run). Several petroglyphs show enormous snakes with a modified head, almost as if it were that of a bird.

The four sacred animals of the Andean cosmogony, condor, llama, feline and snake are frequently represented in unique quadrimorphic figures, which contain the power of these wild animals.

Several geometric figures are also found in Toro Muerto. These are squares divided into 4 parts and circles with 4 points inside. Some researchers proposed that these signs symbolize the four elements of the Universe: earth, water, air and fire.

In addition, there are abundant converging lines and other zigzag lines (which sometimes make one think of a snake). A petroglyph seems to be a kind of code, since there are some repeated geometric signs that could have a symbolic meaning.

While it is true that many incised signs can be related to the concept of water and fertility (frog), even after endless periods of drought, many other petroglyphs remain indecipherable, in addition to not being able to refer to any particular culture.

A few kilometers north of Corire is Aplao, in whose surroundings there are other petroglyphs and strange geoglyphs in which concentric circular lines, repeated circles in the shape of an inverted 8 and some humanoids are represented.

Also here a strong Huari influence is perceived, both in the anthropo-zoomorphic and abstract figures.

It is hoped that in the future the areas of Toro Muerto and Aplao will be protected from vandalism and looting, so that the most important stone libraries in the world will be preserved.


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