Up-Dating the Rock Art of Quebrada del Felino, Peru

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Este trabajo investiga el arte rupestre en el Valle de Jequetepeque en el norte de Perú. Se centra en el sitio de Quebrada del Felino. El artículo actualiza la información que se publicó anteriormente y se centra en establecer la fecha de varias imágenes en el Quebrada del Felino.

This paper focuses on the rock art site of Quebrada del Felino in the Valley of the Jequetepeque in northern Peru. The paper updates the information that was published earlier and focuses on the dating issue of some images at Quebrada del Felino.


Up-Dating the Rock Art of Quebrada del Felino, Peru


Maarten van Hoekrockart@home.nl

Ver mi vídeo sobre el arte rupestre en el Valle de Jequetepeque


Quebrada del Felino is one of several important rock art sites in the valley of the River Jequetepeque, northern Peru (Figure 1; Site 9). It is located on the south bank of the valley, approximately 50 km inland. The petroglyph boulders are found between 410 and 460 m (see Figure 5). The site has become rather inaccessible because of the construction of a huge dam that created the Gallito Ciego Reservoir (see my video for several impressions of the Jequetepeque valley). This now isolated site can be reached by boat (in order to arrange this boat trip one must contact people in the nearby town of Tembladera) or ‘directly’ on foot from Tembladera when the water level of the lake and river is (extremely) low. If those two options are not feasible, the only alternative way to get there is a long and arduous walk from the bridge across the Jequetepeque near the village of Yonán Viejo, which takes in crossing (often very) rough terrain for more than six kilometres single way. In every case I strongly recommend arranging a guide from Tembladera, as – even when the site is clearly visible from Tembladera (Figure 2) – it is rather hard to find your way to the site if not familiar with the tricky terrain.

Figure 1: Map of the Jequetepeque Valley, northern Peru. Green squares: MSC-Style rock art sites. Numbering explained in the text. Map © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth.

Figure 2: View from Tembladera of the rock art site of Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

The site of Quebrada del Felino was probably first ‘discovered’, inventoried and published by Victor Pimentel in 1986. In 1989 Daniel Morales Chocano published a paper about the petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino, but unfortunately I could not get access to this study. A year later Wolfgang and Giesela Hecker registered Quebrada del Felino as their Sitio 139 (Hecker and Hecker 1990), but it is unknown to me if they included a map of the site or whether they describeda any of its rock art. About twenty years later Víctor Falcón Huayta and Mónica Suárez Ubillús published a paper about Sechín-Style feline representations in the Andes and they also included a section about Quebrada del Felino (2009: 335 – 336). Remarkably, they incorrectly situated Quebrada del Felino in the lower course of the Río Jequetepeque and moreover in the Department of La Libertad, instead of Cajamarca (2009: Fig. 1). Finally, archaeologist Eisei Tsurumi (2009), later working together with Carlos Morales (2010; 2012; 2013) excavated several prehistoric structures at the site and on the adjoining pampa and attempted to link those ancient structures with some of the petroglyphs.

The site is named (most likely initially by the local inhabitants and therefore probably also by Pimentel) after an enormous petroglyph of a feline (Figure 3). With an altitude of over nine square metres (the petroglyph measures 3.76 by 2.96 m) it almost certainly is the largest rock art image of a cat in South America. Perhaps it is even the largest cat petroglyph in the world, as it not even challenged by the almost two meter long lion petroglyph at Shuwaymas in Saudi Arabia, discovered in 2001.

The site is also known as Pampa de Mosquito or El Mosquito, probably because the biggest concentration of petroglyph boulders is found at the extreme NW end of an enormous alluvial fan by this name (see Figure 2). This fan once was cut (and sometimes still is affected during huge torrential rains and floods like those in March 2017) by the Río Jequetepeque forming vertical and dangerously crumbling escarpments (barrancos) of up to 20 metres high (Figure 4; for a close-up see my video). This slightly north-sloping pampa is cut by numerous gullies. There are many remains of prehistoric structures on this pampa, some of which have been excavated – mainly in 2009 – by the Peruvian-Japanese team of archaeologists, who also produced a map of the site of Quebrada del Felino (Tsurumi and Morales 2012: Fig. 3).

Eisei Tsurumi and Carlos Morales also discovered a previously unknown rock art site with (at least three) petroglyph boulders further SE on the Pampa de Mosquito. This new site (10 in Figure 1) is labelled Pampa de Mosquito East in this survey. The discoverers did not provide illustrative details of this new site in their publications (2012: 24: 2013: 146), but they kindly shared useful illustrations with me so that at least some observations can be made.

Figure 3: Boulder FEL-003 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 4: View of Pampa de Mosquito from Tembladera. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

It proves that there are actually two groups of petroglyph boulders at the site of Quebrada del Felino. The biggest concentration is found on a slightly sloping part at the extreme west end of the Pampa de Mosquito, while a lesser, linear group is found in a narrow gorge called Quebrada del Felino (Figure 5; see also Figure 2). It seems that Pimentel recorded ‘41’ boulders with petroglyphs (1986), while the Peruvian-Japanese excavating team of Tsurumi and Morales recorded three (or four?) previously unknown boulders at the site in 2009. However, the situation is more complicated than these simple statements suggest and the published distribution plans and numbers of the boulders need to be reviewed as both recordings prove to be incorrect to certain extent.

Figure 5: Top. Map of the rock art site of Quebrada del Felino. Map © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth. Explanation in the text. Bottom. The rock art site of Quebrada del Felino; looking NW. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

As only Pimentel published a detailed inventory of the site, I will continue to use his numbering of the petroglyph boulders. His Piedra/Stein 1 (Stone 1) will be referred to here as Boulder FEL-001 and so on (as far as I know there are no decorated outcrops at this site). I also made several ‘new’ finds. However, most of those purported ‘new’ finds were recorded/photographed earlier by other (mainly local) people, but those ‘new’ petroglyphs have not been illustrated by Pimentel. It concerns Panel FEL-007A and Boulders FEL-047 to FEL-055. Finally I also noticed two boulders with surfaces that may have been worked on by prehistoric people. One instance concerns a large basin stone (see video), while another boulder may have been (ritually?) hammered.

Two Main Issues

This paper does not offer a revised inventory. It mainly discusses two issues regarding two previous recordings of the petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino. First I will tackle the minor issues regarding two published distribution maps of the petroglyph boulders; one by Víctor Pimentel (1986: Fig. 55); the other by Eisei Tsurumi and Carlos Morales (2012: Fig. 3). Secondly I will challenge the following statement by Tsurumi and Morales about the dating of petroglyphs at this site: ‘La gran mayoría de los petroglifos del sitio presentan iconografía que no corresponde al Formativo’ (2012: 148; my emphasis).

Issue 1: Updating the Maps

The Pimentel Map

The map that Pimentel made most likely is only a rough on-site sketch with fictitious contours (without providing altitudes) that probably have also been estimated on-site (Figure 6). There is no north arrow, but when rotating the map, north will be more or less at the top, but even then the position of the gorge (with Boulders FEL-001 to 005) relative to the pampa is incorrect, as is the distance between the two groups. Also the positions of several boulders are inaccurate. The most striking inconsistency is the location of Boulder FEL-004 (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 60.A), which Pimentel situates in the gorge and very near Boulder FEL-005. In reality his Boulder FEL-004 (illustrated as his Fig.60.A) is located in the group on the pampa (Figure 7). The relative positions of several other stones on his map are also questionable; for instance FEL-035 and 36 are much closer together, only separated by a shrub.

Figure 6: Pimentel’s map of the rock art site of Quebrada del Felino. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Pimentel (1986: Fig. 55).

Figure 7: Boulders FEL-004 and FEL-016 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Moreover, Boulders FEL-039, 040 and 041 are missing on Pimentel’s map, while Boulder FEL-021 is not listed or mentioned in his text, even though a Boulder FEL-021 appears on his map (there also is no illustration of Boulder FEL-021 in his book, but just possibly his Fig. 69.4 illustrates a petroglyph on Boulder FEL-021). It is also possible that his Fig. 70.7 of a rectangular petroglyph – allegedly on Boulder FEL-022 – actually is a drawing of a petroglyph on Boulder FEL-021, as I could not find this petroglyph on Boulder FEL-022 and was also unable to locate Boulder FEL-021. Likewise it is certain that the petroglyph illustrated in his Fig. 71.9 is not found on Boulder FEL-023, but on Boulder FEL-027. Although Pimentel illustrates and describes Panel Fel-007B (west slope), he missed the rather distinct petroglyphs on Panel FEL-007A on the east slope of the boulder (see my video). Finally, near Boulder FEL-017 Pimentel has drawn a boulder without a number (marked in yellow and with a ‘?’ in Figure 6).

The Tsurumi-Morales Map

The map published by Tsurumi and Morales (2012: Fig. 3) is very accurate and to scale and the position of the Quebrada del Felino group relative to the Pampa de Mosquito group is correct. Very useful are the correct contours on their map providing altitudes. Also the individual positions of the petroglyph boulders are rather accurate. Yet it is surprising that they also incorrectly position Boulder FEL-004 in the gorge at the same spot between Boulder FEL-003 and 004 where Pimentel located that boulder, that is, if indeed his Boulder FEL-004 is the one illustrated in Fig. 60.A by Pimentel.

They also locate a new petroglyph boulder (labelled 42 by them; 2012: Fig. 3) in the gorge, very near Boulder FEL-001, but they do not refer to this boulder in their studies (Tsurumi and Morales 2012: 23 – footnote). Therefore their Boulder FEL-042 may be the same as my ‘new’ Boulder FEL-046 that I recorded at that spot (a boulder with some very faint, ‘insignificant’ lines).

The following eight boulders do not appear on the map by Tsurumi and Morales because they were not able to locate those boulders: 12, 18, 19, 31, 37 (however, see next paragraphs), 38, 39 and 40 (Tsurumi and Morales 2012: 23 – footnote 7). They also found out that the petroglyphs on Boulder FEL-041 in fact occur on the west facing slope of Boulder FEL-024 and for that reason they correctly omitted Boulder FEL-041 on their map (and therefore Boulder FEL-041 is not shown in my map either). They moreover claim to have made three new (?, as I have no illustrations of those three ‘new’ boulders, I cannot confirm if they indeed are new) discoveries, labelled 43, 44 and 45 by them (2012: 23 – footnote 7).

My Map of the Site

Based on my visit to the site and the information in the maps by Tsurumi-Morales and Pimentel I created my own map (see Figure 5). Also my map – which is based on Google Earth (2013) – is not 100% accurate (I do not work with GPS). In my map I have marked the boulders that I did not find with blue squares. The locations of these boulders on my map will probably be inaccurate or even incorrect. I also recorded boulders of which I do not know the exact location anymore (yellow squares in Figure 5). Those boulders will nevertheless be located approximately in or near the segment indicated on the map. For instance, Boulder FEL-051 is found near Boulder FEL-008 (but where exactly?). Several boulders could be pinpointed on the map with more accuracy, like the very large Boulders FEL-023 and 027, or even with 100% accuracy, like Boulder FEL-003.

Also indicated in my map are three areas with prehistoric structures: H1 and H2 and A.  H1 is the area excavated by Tsurumi and Morales (Plataforma A). H2 is a large mound (Huaca) that has not been excavated (Plataforma B1) and A indicates a small section of a hill slope with remains of ancient anthropic terraces (Plataforma B2 – andenes).

Finally, during my survey I could not find the following boulders illustrated by Pimentel: FEL-002, 010, 011, 012, 014, 017, 018, 019, 021, 031, 034, 038 and 040. This ‘non-appearance’ most likely is caused by a few errors by Pimentel. For instance, the petroglyphs recorded by Pimentel on Boulder FEL-037 (1986: Fig. 83.B) proved to be on top of Boulder FEL-036. For that reason FEL-037 does not appear on my map (and neither does FEL-041). But boulders may also have been displaced (for example because of torrential rainfall during El Niño’s) or are now covered by thick bushes.

It is very unlikely that boulders have been stolen because of the isolated position of the site and the size of most boulders. There is no evidence of vandalism in the form of unwanted graffiti at the site. Therefore it is also unlikely that petroglyph boulders have been destroyed. Yet there may have been an attempt to steal parts of a petroglyph panel, as at Boulder FEL-016 there are sizeable parts missing that are too thick and large to be the result of natural exfoliation (see Figure 29).

The Pimentel Inventory

The inventory by Pimentel has some great advantages, but also some shortcomings. First of all, his textual descriptions and his illustrations are most accurate and informative, also providing scales and orientation. A disadvantage is that his illustrations are inconsistently presented. In some cases the petroglyphs on a panel are presented in the correct relative positions, for instance those on Boulder FEL-013 (Figure 8), while in other drawings the petroglyphs are presented in a random order (for instance those on Boulder FEL-027). Also the orientation of some petroglyphs is inconsistently presented. For instance, Petroglyph 2 on Boulder FEL-030 (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 77.B.2) is actually a recumbent figure (see my video) and also Petroglyph 2 on Boulder FEL-006 (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 60.B.2) should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise in relation to the sloping surface it sits on (however, the position is correct in relation with the anthropomorphic figure that sits on a different panel of this boulder).

Figure 8: Pimentel’s drawing of Boulder FEL-013 at Quebrada del Felino. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Pimentel (1986: Fig. 65).

Very excusable is the fact that not all petroglyphs have been illustrated by Pimentel, despite his very perceptive examination of the site and its boulders and his thorough graphic recording of the often very faint petroglyphs (differences in recording often depend on the weather and on the time and season of observation). Some petroglyphs are missing, for instance in his illustrations of Boulders FEL-013 (M in Figure 8; compare with Figure 23), FEL-016 (in and below the yellow circle in Figure 29) and FEL-032. Importantly, in 2009 Tsurumi and Morales (2013: Fig. 14) recorded a previously unnoticed petroglyph of a large but very faint zoomorph with opposing legs on Panel FEL-003C (2 in Figure 9) and various other small petroglyphs on Boulder FEL-003. Yet, especially the very accurate drawings of Pimentel – together with the illustrations of seven other Jequetepeque sites presented in his book – make it very well possible to link sites and to date some images more accurately.

Figure 9: Panel C of Boulder FEL-003. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Linking Petroglyphs

As it is not my intention to offer an (incomplete) inventory of the site in this paper (although many panels are shown in my video about Jequetepeque rock art), I have selected a few specific petroglyphs that clearly link Quebrada del Felino with other sites in the Jequetepeque Valley and beyond. For instance, petroglyphs of simple S-shaped spirals are found on Boulders FEL-015, 016 and 027, but also occur at Cerro San Simón (Figure 10) and Montegrande (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 51.C and D), both in Jequetepeque. But they also have been recorded at Cerro Negro (see my video about Cerro Negro) in Chicama, 50 km SSW of Quebrada del Felino, and on Boulder HBL-018 at Huaca Blanca in Chancay, 70 km NNW of Quebrada del Felino. However, a widespread distribution of a specific motif is not always an indication of cultural relationship. For instance, the S-shaped petroglyph is also found – probably as a locally invented symbol – at Ariquilda, 1720 km SE of Quebrada del Felino in northern Chile, while the bodies of several zoomorphic petroglyphs in Tibet have been decorated with an identical symbol.

Figure 10: Petroglyph boulder at Cerro San Simón, looking west. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

At Quebrada del Felino two outlined crosses appear, (only?) on Boulder FEL-001 (one shown at 3 in Figure 17). Several more examples occur at Yonán on Panels YON-057, 105 and 092 (Figure 11), a major rock art site only 7 km east of Quebrada del Felino. Outlined crosses are most widespread in the Andes (and – remarkably – also occur at many other sites in the world) and occur for instance at Cerro Mulato in Chancay (74 km NNW of Quebrada del Felino), at Cerro Negro and Chuquillanqui in Chicama (the latter site 65 km SE of Quebrada del Felino), but also at Huancor in San Juan and at Mollebaya Chico in Vítor (the latter site 1300 km SE of Quebrada del Felino), just to name a few.

Figure 11 (left): Panel YON-092 at Yonán, looking north. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 12 (right): Petroglyph boulder at Alto de la Guitarra. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

On Boulder FEL-008 Pimentel recorded a petroglyph of an isolated, fully pecked human hand, which is almost invisible at the moment. It is partially superimposed by/upon (?) a possible vulva-motif. This possible vulva-shape has not been illustrated by Pimentel, as are some other petroglyphs on this boulder. Moreover Pimentel did not record the petroglyph of a possible vulva-symbol on Boulder FEL-055 and he also missed a possible vulva-motif on Panel FEL-003A that was registered for the first time – but differently interpreted – by Tsurumi and Morales (2012).

Interestingly, I recorded several similar petroglyphs of hands at Tolón (see my video), an important rock art site in Jequetepeque about 21 km WSW of Quebrada del Felino. Also at Cerro San Simón Pimentel recorded a similar petroglyph (1986: Fig. 29.C), while at La Laguna in Chicama Núñez Jiménez recorded a similar hand petroglyph (1986: Fig. 541; however, drawings by Núñez Jiménez may be [very] inaccurate and even completely incorrect – see my paper discussing this issue in Rupestreweb). Petroglyphs of isolated human hands (and feet) are very rare in Desert Andes rock art, but I recorded an example of a hand petroglyph at Alto de la Guitarra in Virú (Figure 12), 105 km SSW of Quebrada del Felino.

The Dotted Patterns of Quebrada del Felino

Interestingly, Quebrada del Felino houses a relatively large number of boulders with groups of small dots. Several of those groups of dots are found framed by lines forming non-figurative designs, while others are not framed. Boulder FEL-010 has vertical rows of dots, while a zoomorph on Boulder FEL-020 seems to emanate vertically arranged dots (spit? sound?; see video). Biomorphs associated  (?)  with vertical rows of cups  appear on Boulders FEL-027 and 039. A possibly square group of dots appears on the vertical side of Boulder FEL-050 (partially buried now). Arrangements of dots enclosed by a rather longish rectangular ‘box’ (sometimes with fringes and thus looking like bags; shamans paraphernalia?) occur on Boulders FEL-022 (1 example; see my video), 023 (1 example) and 032 (2 examples). These rectangular boxed dots probably are unique to this site (although a possible comparable petroglyph – horizontally arranged this time – appears on Panel TOL-002B at Tolón in Jequetepeque).

Boulder FEL-023 has a randomly arranged group of dots (several still arranged in rows) that is possibly associated with a biomorphic figure (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 71.4), but at the moment the dots (and the biomorph) are almost invisible. On the same SE facing panel is another arrangement of dots that has been mentioned but not illustrated by Pimentel. This much larger arrangement – very superficially pecked and/or rubbed – includes a boxed group of dots with a row of parallel lines from its lower end. To its right is another rectangular group of dots without enclosing line, but still with parallel lines from its lower end (Figure 13). What makes this group of markings so special is that they are only clearly visible when the sunlight is reflected from the panel at a specific angle (compare with a similar situation with a petroglyph in Virú URL).

Figure 13: Boulder FEL-023 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Panel FEL-035B shows a small triangular arrangement of six dots with its apex down (see my video). More telling are the four arrangements of dots on Boulder FEL-033. One of them is clearly triangular and also has its apex pointing downwards (Figure 14). I regard this specific triangular arrangement to be highly intentional. A framed example – with the apex at the top, though – is found at an almost inaccessible position of 2.70 m above ground level on Panel TOL-002A at Tolón in Jequetepeque (Figure 15). But such arrangements of dots are also found beyond Jequetepeque. On Boulder HBL-009 at Huaca Blanca in Chancay, a biomorph features a roughly triangular body filled with dots, while nearby Boulders HBL-010 and HBL-016 each have a framed triangular group of dots. However, triangular arrangements are relatively more frequently found at Cerro Mulato, a site in the same valley, opposite Huaca Blanca.

Figure 14: Boulder FEL-033 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 15: Panel A of Boulder TOL-002 at Tolón, looking NE. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Cerro Mulato is, as far as I could check, the only major rock art site where the dotted (and often framed) triangle occurs in relatively very large numbers. The no less than 40 arrangements of dotted triangles seem to be rather evenly distributed throughout the site (Van Hoek 2012). Moreover, Núñez Jiménez illustrates three (possible) examples that I could not find (1986: Figs 0111, 0139 and 0176). Although many different arrangements of small, superficially pecked dots occur at Cerro Mulato, it is the configuration of dots forming a triangle – or the triangular line enclosing dots – that represents the true hallmark of the iconography of this magnificent site. The characteristic dotted triangle is formed by a group of dots that is distinctly triangularly arranged with the apex at the bottom. In many cases, a group of dots – the group of dots itself not necessarily being triangularly arranged – is framed by a triangular groove that again almost invariably has its apex at the bottom. Moreover, the apex of the triangle may be pointed, rounded or flattened. The dotted triangle may appear singly, however, it is most striking when it forms rows. In one case, two west facing panels (CMb-006 and CMb-007), with three triangles each, form an impressive linear arrangement but only when viewed from a certain point slightly lower down the hill slope (Figure 16). This linear display looks intentionally arranged, perhaps aiming to impress the observer approaching from below.

Figure 16: Boulders CMb-006 and CMb-007 at Cerro Mulato, Valle de Chancay. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

From the above examples it proves that the repertoire of rock art images at Quebrada del Felino can firmly be linked with the rock art traditions in several more distant sites in Jequetepeque and with sites in other valleys, like Chancay to the north and Chicama and Virú to the south.

Yet, almost every major rock art site is unique in some respect, also because of imagery that is not found at the site. For instance, the crescent-symbol and imagery of biomorphic tumi-bearers (see my paper in Adoranten) are – as far as I know – absent at Quebrada del Felino, while at Yonán – only seven kilometres to the east in Jequetepeque – those two types of images are relatively overrepresented. It may be significant that especially those two types of images (the crescent and the tumi) are regarded to be later than the Formative Period and are usually ascribed to the Moche or Chimú cultures. This may indicate that most (?) petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino are in first instance older than Moche. This idea brings us to further investigate the issue of the dating the petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino.

Issue 2: Dating Petroglyphs

Dating Andean rock art is notoriously difficult and in most cases statements about age should be viewed with suspicion. Only when specific imagery has been found on dateable objects (like ceramics) or at ancient structures (like temple walls, especially when found in a sealed context) it is possible to watchfully date similarly looking or related imagery on natural rock surfaces. But even then one has to be cautious, as specific imagery may have been used for many hundreds of years and moreover may have been borrowed from preceding cultures (which is often the case in Andean prehistory). Also for those reasons the dating issue of the petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino is very complicated.

But there is one category of images in the repertoire of Andean rock art that offers definite clues as to the rough dating of several petroglyphs. All Andean rock art images (petroglyphs as well as rock paintings) in this specific category have been labelled MSC-Style images by me. MSC-Style images are mainly biomorphic images that belong to the Andean Formative and Archaic (or Preceramic) Periods (roughly from 3000 B.C. to A.D. 50). The MSC-Style thus also includes Chavín imagery; alas.

Unfortunately it is a fact that, in the past, the overwhelming dominance of the once powerful Chavín ‘culture’ too often resulted in the acknowledgment that all ‘Chavín-looking’ art expressions were uncritically contributed to the highland Chavín ‘culture’. Imagery from the coast that looked like ‘Chavín imagery’ was even labelled ‘Coastal Chavín’; in my opinion completely incorrectly. Several authors also used the term ‘Chavinoid’, to refer to Chavín-looking (rock art) images, but now I find this term completely inadequate as it too strongly implies an exclusive Chavín origin for MSC-Style imagery or too strongly refers to a dominant Chavín influence.

Henning Bischof expertly demonstrated that the sources of Classic Chavín were to be found in earlier coastal cultures, but unfortunately he referred to those earlier sources as ‘Chavín-A’, as he wrote (1994: 188): “The contributions of Chavín-A to later Cupisnique art remain to be studied.”. In his 1994-paper Bischof uses the term Cupisnique only twice, while the term Chavín or Chavín-related term are used more than 150 times. Apparently the later Chavín Cult(ure) was so dominant in twentieth-century Andean archaeology that Bischof only used the terms Chavín-A and Chavín to refer to – mainly – the much earlier Sechín Style and the still earlier Punkurí Style. I reject the terms Chavín and Chavín-A for the cultural phases that preceded the Classic Chavín Style, because it too much covers the earlier Cupisnique Cultures in an unwanted Chavín blanket. I prefer to refer to all those earlier coastal culture styles as the Cupisnique Style, or rather as the MSC-Style. Chavín borrowed much of its specific iconography from those much earlier coastal societies, as I comprehensively explained and strongly advocated earlier (Van Hoek 2011).

Therefore, one reason to introduce the acronym ‘MSC-Style’ is to refute the origin and/or influence of the Chavín Cult(ure) during the manufacture of rock art in coastal Peru during the Formative Period (and earlier). The other reason to introduce this neutral acronym for all the (rock art) images with purported ‘Chavín-style’ characteristics is to avoid confusion and bias. The combination of the three capitals MSC indicates the possible influence from the Manchay (Lima), Sechín (Casma) and all the other Cupisnique ‘cultures’ of the north coast (the last ‘C’ of the MSC-acronym may also be read as Chavín to include the Chavín iconography and to at least theoretically allow some influence from Chavín at possibly some [rock art] sites). By using the contraction ‘MSC-style’, I also try to avoid ascribing a certain image exclusively to one specific ‘culture’, simultaneously allowing for influences other than Manchay, Sechín and Cupisnique to be (even collectively!) responsible for a final image. For example, local influences and personal idiosyncrasies cannot be ruled out in the evolution of the imagery of a rock art site and even of one image. In this way it is also possible to avoid the practice that the imagery of a complete rock art site is referred to as ‘Chavín’ or as ‘Chavinoid’. It is more likely that the imagery at every major coastal rock art site represents several cultural influences.

In rock art only a few specific elements and/or properties are indicative for the MSC-style, which mainly involves biomorphic figures or elements thereof. It proves that, in case of biomorphs, the most defining elements of the MSC-style are the eyes – often with eccentric pupils – and the often fanged and agnatic mouth exposing teeth. To a lesser extent ears, feet, legs, nails, claws, headgear and/or hair-style and other features may point to the MSC-style. In many cases designs are laid out using the concept of modular width. It is also significant that the most frequently occurring components and the most defining elements concern facial features; except for the nose – although depicted in several cases – which hardly ever forms a defining MSC-style element in rock art imagery and is – as far as I know – never found in isolation. Especially one defining MSC-style element – the isolated, agnatic mouth – will be used in this paper to determine whether – in my opinion – a rock art image belongs to the Formative MSC-style.

But there are more characteristics that define the MSC-Style. Most strikingly, biomorphic MSC-imagery is often narrowed down or reduced to a few specific isolated elements, especially at certain sites. This process of restricting oneself to depict only certain anatomical components seems to be highly premeditated, but the reason for this process is uncertain, as is the exact chronology of this evolutionary (?) development. Yet, from the graphical evidence it can be inferred that there seems to have been a tendency to ‘start’ with complete MSC-style figures (often found at temple complexes) and then to narrow down a certain theme to specific, isolated symbols (mainly [and only?] found on natural rock surfaces). After the ‘initial’ stage of complete, often feline-related figures one started to depict isolated heads and ultimately isolated facial elements like eyes and agnatic mouths on boulders and other natural rock surfaces.

However, in rock art the several elements (heads and – especially – isolated eyes and agnatic mouths) are not always easily recognisable as MSC-style images. For instance, even isolated circles with a central dot might represent MSC-Style eyes. In other cases MSC-Style images are highly stylised, for example the four petroglyphs on Boulder TOL-004 at Tolón that are hardly recognisable as isolated head images (see Figure 33.A; for another example see my video about Jequetepeque rock art). In those cases mainly the use of modular width indicates that it definitely  concerns  MSC-Style images.  Another property of the MSC-Style  is that an

MSC-Style element – like one eye with an eccentric pupil – may occur at positions that are completely illogical to the western observer. Finally, it is a ‘problem’ that several MSC-Style images were reduced and moreover stylised in such a way that the original biomorph character got lost completely. An illustrative example probably is the MSC-Style petroglyph on FEL-001 (1 in Figure 17).

Figure 17: Panels A (3) and B (1 and 2) of Boulder FEL-001 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

MSC-Style Petroglyph Sites in Jequetepeque

It now is a fact that especially the Jequetepeque Valley is relatively very rich in rock art sites that have MSC-Style petroglyphs (often – but not always – occurring along with images from other periods, of course). However, in most cases those sites have only one (like Chungal and Quindén-West) or just a few MSC-Style petroglyphs; the most notable exception in Jequetepeque being Tolón, where I recorded at least 15 MSC-Style petroglyphs on nine boulders.

At the moment I know of thirteen rock art sites in Jequetepeque with MSC-Style images (indicated with green squares in Figure 1) and four (but possibly 11; see appendix 1) sites with probably no MSC-Style petroglyphs (indicated with yellow squares in Figure 1). Altogether there may be (more than?) 24 rock art sites in the Jequetepeque Valley (see Appendix 1).

Tsurumi (2009) and Tsurumi and Morales (2010, 2012; 2013) mention eight sites with Formative Period petroglyphs in their publications: Tolón (1 in Figure 1), Pay Pay (4 in Figure 1), Callito Ciego (6 in Figure 1), Montegrande, possibly (partially?) destroyed (7 in Figure 1), Chungal with two boulders, now both lost (8 in Figure 1), Quebrada del Felino (9 in Figure 1), Cerro Yonán (12 in Figure 1), a rock art site only 1700 m west of the rock art site of Yonán  (Campana and Deza 2006) and Quindén-West (16 in Figure 1; Tsurumi 2009: Fig. 9-4). All those sites have MSC-Style elements.

Regarding the rock art site of Quindén-West (Site 16 in Figure 1) Tsurumi writes (freely translated from Japanese; my addition between brackets): ‘…when going up the northern bank (from La Bomba), a petroglyph depicting an image of the Formative Period (Fig. 9-4) is found before entering the village of Quindén’ (Tsurumi 2009: 220). The drawing by Tsurumi (2009: Fig. 9-4) indeed shows an MSC-Style petroglyph with a possible rectangular eye and an eccentric pupil, while the rest of the possible head or face is drawn in the modular with style (Figure 18).

Figure 18: Boulder QUW-001 at Quindén-West. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Tsurumi 2009: Fig. 9-4).

However, also the major site of Yonán (also known as Santa Clara; 13 in Figure 1) has some MSC-Style petroglyphs (Van Hoek 2011: Fig. 82) that most likely have not been not referred to by Tsurumi and Morales in this respect. Moreover, four other sites in Jequetepeque – not mentioned by Tsurumi and Morales and some not yet scientifically investigated and/or recorded – also have MSC-Style images: Cerro San Simon (2 in Figure 1), La Playa de los Zorros (3 in Figure 1), Quebrada de Pay Pay (5 in Figure 1) and La Ramada (11 in Figure 1).

There are four other sites in Jequetepeque, probably with no (?) MSC-Style petroglyphs: El Pongo (14 in Figure 1; Núñez Jiménez 1986: 187 – 198), La Bomba (Tsurumi and Morales 2010: Fig. 1; 15 in Figure 1), Pampa de Mosquito East (10 in Figure 1; Tsurumi and Morales 2013: Fig. 2) and Quindén-East (17 in Figure 1; Tsurumi and Morales 2013: Fig. 2). There is mention of seven more sites in Jequetepeque (see Appendix 1: Sites 18 to 24), but reliable information – especially about the location – lacks completely. Moreover, some of those seven sites may well concern double-entries.

The rock art site at La Bomba comprises three panels on two outcrops (BOM-001A and 001B and BOM-002), both discovered by Eisei Tsurumi and Carlos Morales. Judging by the photos they kindly shared with me, the imagery at this site does not contain specific MSC-Style images. Although in their publications Tsurumi and Morales tentatively classified the imagery at La Bomba as ‘Formative petroglyphs’, today Tsurumi and Morales (pers. comm.. 2017) do not insist on their past interpretation on chronological positions of those petroglyphs anymore. But still, (some of) the petroglyphs at La Bomba may date to the Formative Period, like the small petroglyph on BOM-002 that seems to include teeth.

Regarding the new site at the extreme east end of the Pampa de Mosquito (Site 10 in Figure 1), the discoverers Tsurumi and Morales remark the following: ‘En el extremo este registramos tres rocas con petroglifos que no pertenecen al Periodo Formativo …’ (2013: 146). Scanning the petroglyphs shown in the photos kindly shared with me by Tsurumi and Morales, I can confirm that indeed the images on the three boulders do not represent classical (MSC-Style) Formative Period petroglyphs. Yet, some (or all) of the petroglyphs at Pampa de Mosquito East may date from the Formative Period. Especially the patterns of the petroglyphs on Boulder MOZ-001 are most unusual.

As I have no information about the graphic content of the site of Quindén-East (Tsurumi and Morales in preparation), it is unknown to me whether there are MSC-Style petroglyphs at that site. Moreover, as many sites in Jequetepeque have never been fully (scientifically) investigated, it may well be that (more) MSC-Style imagery exists at any of the possibly 22 Jequetepeque sites, also at other sites that have not yet been recorded.

MSC-Style Petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino

Tsurumi and Morales rightfully acknowledge that several petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino date from the Formative Period. They moreover remark ‘podemos distinguir solamente dos estilos diferentes (Formativo y épocas posteriores)’, thus simultaneously acknowledging that images other than those from the Formative Period are hard to classify and date. However, they continue to state that ‘La gran mayoría de los petroglifos del sitio presentan iconografía que no corresponde al Formativo.’ (2013: 148), although they do not offer any proof for this statement. Importantly, in my opinion there are (many?) more (MSC-Style) images at this site that belong to the Formative Period. Therefore I now will review the petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino that – for myself – definitely date from the Formative Period, and even belong to the MSC-Style as well.

Boulder FEL-003: the Big Cat

The first and foremost boulder with definite MSC-Style images is Boulder FEL-003. Tsurumi and Morales (2013) correctly interpret the weathered ‘winged-anthropomorph’ on Panel B (see my video) as a Formative Period image. In my opinion it definitely is an MSC-Style petroglyph as well. Although it is said that it has Chavín Style resemblances (Tsurumi and Morales 2013) this assertion does not mean however that it is of Chavín origin or even that it has been influenced by Chavín. In my opinion it is definitely of Cupisnique origin.

Also the still very clear (re-pecked?) petroglyph on Panel C (1 in Figure 9) may well be a Formative Period image, as the style of the design seems to be based upon the MSC-Style concept of modular width. The much larger animal on the same panel (2 in Figure 9) is hardly visible at the moment. It is heavily weathered and for that reason it may be even older than the

Big Cat and – although there is no proof for this assumption – then it is definitely a Formative Period petroglyph. Moreover, I also do not see any reason why this large animal (or any other feline petroglyph at Quebrada del Felino) is an imitation or a spin-off of the Big Cat, as Tsurumi and Morales seem to suggest (2012: 153). All the feline petroglyphs at this site (and at several other sites in northern Peru as well) may well be older or younger than the Big Cat or even of the same date.

Analogies of the Big Cat

Especially the enormous MSC-Style feline on Panel A (see Figure 3) is correctly recognised by Tsurumi and Morales as a petroglyph from the Formative Period. They ascribe this huge petroglyph to the Initial Period. They also refer to Henning Bischof (1994), who claims a possible Sechín origin/influence for the Big Cat. The Cerro Sechín Temple Complex is in Casma (265 km SSE of Quebrada del Felino) where the remains of a sculptured and painted feline (now covered up for protection) have been recorded. In view of several characteristics of the Big Cat (especially the tripartite eye and the identifiable ferocious claws) I fully agree with that statement. Bischof also suggests an even earlier origin by pointing to the (now severely damaged) clay sculpture of a feline at the Temple Complex of Punkurí in Nepeña (230 km SE of Quebrada del Felino) which is in my opinion also a most valid option as well.

Besides those two fixed examples found in ancient temples there are some portable sculptures that may well be related to the Big Cat at Quebrada del Felino. A bas relief – now on display in the Site Museum of Chavín de Huántar and first described by Julio Tello (1960) – is said to be from Chavín de Huántar, although a Chavín manufacture is rightfully questioned (Kan 1972: 73; Fig. 7; Falcón Huayta and Suárez Ubillús 2009: 337; Fig. 14; Van Hoek 2011: 31-32: Fig. 26).

In my opinion it is very well possible that this stone slab was once transported from one of the important coastal centres of the Sechín culture in Casma, across the Andean watershed into the Mosna Valley in the highlands, to be incorporated into the large array of paraphernalia of the cult centre at Chavín de Huántar. It is certain that in prehistoric times coastal valleys – like Casma and Jequetepeque – not at all represented isolated territories. Cultural exchanges over enormous distances, no matter how rough the terrain, were a true hallmark of the religious, economic and social organisation in the Andes. Indeed, many materials recovered from several Andean sites prove that long-distance exchange networks were well established during the Formative Period and even the preceding Preceramic Period. Importantly, when transporting the (Sechín?) slab from Casma to Chavín de Huántar (although this not certain) one may well have passed the site of Mesapatac in Casma (locally called the Río Grande).

In this respect it is interesting to notice that at Mesapatac – only 35 km east of Cerro Sechín – three stone slabs were discovered in 2003 (Suárez Ubillús 2010), importantly in a non-rock-art context. Two slabs are decorated with representations of a feline. Especially the feline sculpture on Boulder 1 is important (Suárez Ubillús 2010: Fig. 15.a). It shows two Sechín-Style claws that both point outward, as well as two fangs in a ‘fat-lipped’ mouth and a simple version of the tripartite eye with a slightly eccentrically placed pupil. Moreover, the extra, inverted, Sechín style ‘severed’ head carved out at the central part of its body seems to confirm that this stone sculpture is indeed of Sechín origin. This slab and the two others may have been left for some unknown reason at Mesapatac, just possibly when initially being transported to Chavín de Huántar.

Analogies in Rock Art

Also rock art offers several analogies for the Big Cat at Quebrada del Felino. A rather distant analogy may be the rock painting of a feline at Pintashgamacay in the Department of Pasco (Van Hoek 2011: 145: Fig. 146.B). Another possible parallel is the petroglyph of a feline on Boulder LCG-007 at Los Cóndores, La Galgada (172 km SE of Quebrada del Felino), which, however, measures only 15 cm across (Echevarría López and Bueno Mendoza 2013: Fig. 24). However, in Andean aesthetics actual size of an image is not always essential. What matters is the concept of ‘essence over appearance’ (Stone Miller 1995: 16).

However, the nearest parallel in rock art is found on Boulder TOM-005 at Tomabal in Virú, a rock art site with several MSC-Style petroglyphs, located some 130 km SSE of Jequetepeque. This boulder, first reported by my wife and me in 2006 (Van Hoek 2007: Figs 11 and 12), shows an outlined profile feline petroglyph of the MSC-Style (Figure 19). Although it is not looking backwards, it also has its head in a remarkable and ‘illogical’ position. It moreover has claws that are comparable with the claws of the Big Cat at Quebrada del Felino.

Figure 19: Boulder TOM-005 at Tomabal, Valle de Virú. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Summarising, the unique feline petroglyph at Quebrada del Felino seems to have been inspired and/or influenced by coastal cultures to the SE, rather than being a local invention or having been influenced by Formative Period coastal cultures to the NW of Jequetepeque. In my opinion the Big Cat has definitely nothing to do with a Chavín origin. Interestingly, Tsurumi and Morales argue that the Big Cat at Quebrada del Felino is the specific and local source for the icon of ‘the jaguar of the backward glance’. ‘Ninguno de los otros felinos arcaicos del “Estilo Punkurí (anteriormente Estilo Sechín)” miran hacia atrás. Por eso suponemos que la representación y simbolismo de “the jaguar of the backward glance” se relaciona con una fuente específica y local: el petroglifo “Felino” de la Pampa de Mosquito.’(2012: 154).

However, at the extensive rock art site of Alto de la Guitarra Cristóbal Campana Delgado has recorded a petroglyph of a feline that is looking backwards (2013: Fig. 116). Alto de la Guitarra de la Guitarra is known for its many Cupisnique and Sechín-Style petroglyphs (Van Hoek 2011; Campana Delgado 2013) and thus every existing example of ‘the jaguar of the backward glance’ (in rock art and in all other graphical representations) may well have been a local invention and moreover a logical interpretation of a position of a feline’s head that is nothing more than natural. But I agree, the ‘reversed’ stance of the head of the feline may well have been used to symbolically indicate the concept of shamanism, as Alana Cordy-Collins argues (1998: 167).

Boulder FEL-005

The third definite MSC-Style petroglyph is found on Boulder FEL-005 (Figure 20). These very faint petroglyphs (Figure 21) were probably first recorded by Victor Pimentel (1986: 95) but they were not illustrated or interpreted by him because of their uncertain status. Much later Tsurumi and Morales (2012: Fig. 9) accurately recorded the faint petroglyph, recognised the set of lines as a Formative Period design and drew them as a definitely Cupisnique head, including an MSC-Style rectangular eye with an eccentric pupil (Figure 22). The rectilinear and angular style of this MSC-Style head petroglyph is similar to several examples on Boulder TOL-004 at Tolón, also in Jequetepeque (see Figure 33.A; another example is shown in my video).

Figure 20: Boulders FEL-001, FEL-003 and FEL-005 (frame: Figure 21) at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 21: Boulder FEL-005 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 22: Boulder FEL-005 at Quebrada del Felino. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Tsurumi and Morales (2012: Fig. 9).

Other Formative Period Petroglyphs

For the rest Tsurumi and Morales do not offer illustrations or interpretations of Formative Period images, although they write (2012: 24 – Footnote 9): ‘Alrededor de cuatro rocas con petroglifos hemos efectuado excavaciones restringidas. Seleccionamos las Piedras 8, 27, 35 y 36, presentan iconografía formativa (o precerámica)’, suggesting that (some of) the petroglyphs on those four boulders also date from the Formative Period. Although I myself do not recognise any specific Formative Period imagery or MSC-Style petroglyphs on Boulders FEL-027 and FEL-035 (yet they all [?] may well date from the Formative Period), Tsurumi and Morales are most likely correct to regard (only) the zoomorphic petroglyphs on Boulders FEL-008 and FEL-036 (see my video) as definite Formative Period images. The defining property that links the two zoomorphs with the big feline on FEL-003 is the tripartite eye motif; labelled the ‘bicorned eye’ by Bischof (1994: 188). Earlier I comprehensively discussed the MSC-Style tripartite eye-motif (which also occurs at other rock art sites in Jequetepeque, like Cerro Yonán, Quebrada de Pay Pay and on Boulder TOL-006 at Tolón, as well as at several other sites in the north of Peru) in my Nepeña Survey (2016: 53 – 62).

However, there are several more boulders with Formative Period (MSC-Style) petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino than stated by Tsurumi and Morales. One type of petroglyph – not referred to by them – is even classified by me as a definite MSC-Style motif. The most illustrative examples of the first motif are found on Boulders FEL-013 (Figure 23; also see Figure 8) and (one example) on Boulder FEL-048 (Figure 24). Apart from those two boulders, also (only a part of?) the large petroglyph on FEL-016 (see Figure 29) and an (unfinished?) petroglyph on Boulder FEL-001 (see Figure 17) are claimed by me to have MSC-Style properties. All those motifs will now be discussed.

Figure 23: Boulder FEL-013 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 24: Detail of Boulder FEL-048 at Quebrada del Felino. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Boulders FEL-013 and FEL-048

Importantly, it was Pimentel who first interpreted several U-shaped motifs on Boulder FEL-013 as possible mouths of masks (1986: 100: Fig. 65). He wrote (1986: 24): ‘Aparece varias veces el motivo de nudo corredizo, el cual también puede interpretarse  como abrevación  de máscara.’. Although Pimentel recognised the character of the motif, he did not suggest a date for those petroglyphs. Somewhat later Henning Bischof agreed with the isolated mouth-motif interpretation forwarded by Pimentel when he wrote (1994): ‘Iconographically, the agnathic mouth motif is found in different contexts, there are cases when it appears as an isolated U- shaped symbol ending in scrolls, as on some petroglyphs in the Jequetepeque Valley (Pimentel S. 1986: figure 65).’.

One large U-shaped motif also occurs on Boulder FEL-048 (previously unrecorded?), while two possibly related petroglyphs occur on Boulders FEL-008A and FEL-015. Earlier I also stated that those typical U-shaped motifs represent the agnatic mouths of frontally depicted MSC-Style heads and/or faces (Van Hoek 2011). In the same publication I notably argued – without claiming any historical sequence – that biomorphic MSC-Style imagery (possibly!) evolved from complete biomorphic images to fully isolated elements; especially isolated mouths and eyes (Van Hoek 2011: 116). Importantly, those isolated U-shaped motifs may have been regarded by the local peoples to express the same symbolic content as the whole picture and thus they may have served as pars pro toto features.

To explain the origin and character of the isolated U-shaped mouth-motifs on Boulders FEL-013 and FEL-048 (and the possible examples on Boulders FEL-008A and FEL-015) it will only be necessary to look at the – now lost – single petroglyph on Boulder CHL-001 at Chungal (Figure 25.A1). This Chungal boulder once was located directly opposite Quebrada del Felino, but also ‘between’ the sites of Quebrada del Felino and Montegrande and – importantly – thus also on the hypothetical route across the Jequetepeque Valley as suggested by Tsurumi and Morales (2012: Fig. 15).

If only we graphically isolate the key element that builds the mouth in the face on Boulder CHL-001 (Van Hoek 2011), then especially the U-shaped mouth with downward curving ends (Figure 25.A2) is almost identical to the isolated petroglyphs found on Boulders FEL-013 (Figure 25.B) and FEL-048 at Quebrada del Felino. Therefore, I am convinced that the U-shaped motifs at Quebrada del Felino date from the Formative Period as well and definitely represent MSC-Style mouth-symbols that have intentionally been isolated from complete MSC-Style (head) imagery. My statement has further consequences.

Figure 25: A1. Petroglyph on Boulder CHL-001; A2. Isolated mouth element of the petroglyph on Boulder CHL-001. B. One of the mouth elements on Boulder FEL-013. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek, A based on Pimentel 1986: Fig. 54.


If my statement is correct, then my claim means that the statement by Tsurumi and Morales about the dating of the rock art repertoire of the Montegrande petroglyphs is also incomplete. They notably suggest that only two petroglyphs at Montegrande may date from the Formative Period. It concerns petroglyphs on Boulder MON-017 (Figure 26.A.1) and MON-022 (Figure 26.B) (Pimentel 1986: respectively Fig. 51.B.3 and 51.G). They suggest that the other petroglyphs at Montegrande are later of origin: ‘En la roca codificada ‘Piedra 22’, se observa una representación de cabeza trofeo estilísticamente formativo está rodeada por otras 21 rocas que presentan petroglifos estilísticamente distintos, supuestamente tardíos’ (Tsurumi and Morales 2013: 146). Although I agree with their observation that – in general – rock art sites are frequently visited (and often images added) by subsequent cultures, the process of adding images by succeeding cultures is not always that intensive at every site (although intensive addition indeed sometimes occurs, for instance at Yonán). The situation at Montegrande is proof of my assertion.

Figure 26 (left): Collage of MSC-Style petroglyphs on several boulders at Montegrande. See the text for explanation. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, all based on Pimentel 1986 (Figs 48 to 51).

Figure 27 (right): A. Petroglyph at Cerro San Simón. B. Petroglyph at Cerro Mulato. C. Petroglyph at Palamenco. D. Petroglyphs at Checta. All drawings © by Maarten van Hoek (drawing ‘A’ based on Pimentel 1986: Fig. 32.D).

Notably, also the U-shaped petroglyphs on Boulders MON-005.1, MON-006.2.3, MON-008.2 (Figure 26.C), MON-009.1 (Figure 26.D), MON-011.1?.2.3.5 (Figure 26.E), MON-012A.2 (Figure 26.F), MON-013.2 (Figure 26.G), MON-014.1, MON-016.1(?) and MON-017.2 must in my opinion be admitted as MSC-Style images and thus as Formative Period petroglyphs. Also the design on MON-020 (Figure 26.H) and the various S-shaped motifs at Montegrande (and at many other sites) may well date from the Formative Period. This actually larger number of Formative Period images therefore seriously questions the suggestion by Tsurumi and Morales (2013: 146) that the majority of petroglyphs at Montegrande are of a later date. In my opinion this also goes for their claim that the smaller petroglyphs on Panel A of Boulder FEL-003 represent later additions (Tsurumi and Morales 2013: 150). This is of course possible, but there is no proof.

Finally, similar MSC-Style mouth-motifs have been reported from a few other sites. Also the petroglyph on Panel SIM-057 at Cerro San Simón (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 32.D) may fall within the mouth-element category (Figure 27.A). On Boulder PLZ-021 at La Playa de los Zorros, also in Jequetepeque, is at least one similar petroglyph. At Cerro Mulato in Chancay a similar design on Boulder CMp-310 has some possible eye-elements added (Figure 27.B), while on Boulder PAL-035 at Palamenco in the Santa drainage is an outlined example of the MSC-Style mouth element with fangs (Figure 27.C).

Interestingly, a possible MSC-Style mouth-motif (Figure 27.D) has also been recorded on Panel CHE-005 at Checta in Chillon near Lima (550 km SSE of Quebrada del Felino), while at Chillihuay in Ocoña (no less than 1170 km SE of Jequetepeque) a large MSC-Style head petroglyph incorporates no less than six MSC-Style mouth-motifs (Van Hoek 2011: Fig. 120.B). Based on the distribution pattern of the MSC-Style mouth-element (and many other MSC-Style petroglyphs) it is more logical to suggest that – during the Formative Period – the MSC-Style travelled to the south and/or north hopping the coast, stopping at the various coastal cultures of the Cupisnique Formative Period, than to accept diffusion directly from Chavín de Huántar.

Boulder FEL-016

Pimentel (1986: Fig. 67.B) illustrates only one petroglyph on Boulder FEL-016 (Figure 28). However, there are more (mainly indistinct) petroglyphs on this panel. One of the petroglyphs he missed is a very faint S-shaped motif at the top of the (damaged) boulder (framed by a yellow circle in Figure 29), which could well date from the Formative Period. However, it is the rectangular head with in particular the three triangular appendages of the large zoomorphic petroglyph that offers an indication that the image may date from the Formative Period as well. I now argue that especially the row of three (sometimes more) triangular appendages is definitely an MSC-Style element in Formative Period iconography. Interestingly, isolated rectangular motifs with a row of triangular appendages on top also occur on Boulders FEL-023 and FEL-032 and (an inverted head petroglyph?) on Boulder GAC-001 at Gallito Ciego; a boulder (nowadays not in its original position) with one definite MSC-Style head petroglyph as well (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 46). At La Playa de los Zorros, also in Jequetepeque, one faint row of three triangular appendages appears on Boulder PLZ-011. The exact pattern is very uncertain, though.

Figure 28: Petroglyph on Boulder FEL-016. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Pimentel (1986: Fig. 67.B).

Figure 29: Petroglyphs on Boulder FEL-016. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

More importantly, at Cerro San Simón in Jequetepeque Pimentel (1986: Fig. 25.D) recorded a definite MSC-Style petroglyph of a profile, square head with an MSC-Style downward curving mouth and a rectangular eye with eccentric pupil. Important are the three triangular appendages on the head (Figure 30.A) that definitely link this petroglyph with the zoomorph on Boulder FEL-016. Moreover, at Yonán I recorded a previously unnoticed petroglyph of a similar profile MSC-Style head on Panel YON-108 (Figure 30.B). It overlooks the dry Quebrada de Chausis.

Figure 30 (left): A. Petroglyph at Cerro San Simón. B. Petroglyph at Yonán. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek, drawing ‘A’ based on Pimentel (1986: Fig. 25.D).

Figure 31 (right): Ceramic flat stamp from the Formative Period. Photograph published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Accession Number: 1993.458.7.

At Palamenco in the Lacramacra Valley of the Santa drainage I recorded (also for the first time?) an MSC-Style profile head that features three triangular appendages (Van Hoek 2011: Fig. 84). This petroglyph – on Boulder PAL-084 – probably represents the only MSC-Style petroglyph with triangular appendages outside Jequetepeque. This again may point to influence from a culture to the SE or vice versa (compare this with my remark regarding the origin of the big feline on Boulder FEL-003). But which culture?

Although a ceramic stamp (Figure 31), allegedly ascribed to the Chavín Culture and even suggested to be from Chavín de Huántar (and now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), is almost identical to the petroglyph at Cerro San Simón, it is very unlikely that petroglyphs with a triangular row on the head (in Jequetepeque or elsewhere) are of Chavín origin or influenced by Chavín. First of all, the exact provenance of the stamp is unknown and if indeed from – for instance – Chavín the Huántar, the small stamp (3.25 in.) may have easily been transported to Chavín de Huántar, as have many other items from other (often preceding) cultures. And if indeed of Chavín manufacture, the graphic design of the stamp may well have been borrowed from Cupisnique or Sechín, as are many other MSC-Style (Cupisnique) elements (Van Hoek 2011).

A Cupisnique – Sechín origin of those Jequetepeque elements in petroglyph art is much more likely. This southerly/coastal origin also seems to be confirmed by several prehistoric ‘graffiti’ of rows of triangular elements ‘crowning’ many images incised into the adobe walls of the Sechín Bajo Temple Complex in Casma (Figure 32). This Temple Complex dates from roughly 4000 to 2000 B.C., and thus well in advance of the Chavín Cult(ure). Despite this very acceptable southerly connection, the design of the head with triangular appendages at Quebrada del Felino may well be a local (Jequetepeque) innovation (that once travelled south?).

Figure 32: Four examples of Formative Period graffiti scratched in the adobe walls of Sechín Bajo near Casma. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek, based on drawings in Patzschke (2008).

Boulder FEL-001

In my opinion also a small petroglyph on Boulder FEL-001 (1 in Figure 17) may date from the Formative Period (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 56.9 – slightly incompletely drawn). Although it cannot be recognised as a biomorphic image, the style of the design seems to be based upon the MSC-Style concept of modular width. It may have been an attempt to start an MSC-Style head (notice the very faint lines around the petroglyph). The fact that it cannot immediately be recognised as an MSC-Style head-design, can be explained as follows. In many cases the layout of an MSC-Style head is very complex and confusing, as is evidenced by the MSC-Style (Cupisnique) head-petroglyphs on Boulder TOL-004 at Tolón (Figure 33.A) and by the four more Classic Chavín Style ‘feline’ heads engraved on the Chiclayo Strombus (Figure 33.B; one ‘feline’ head coloured in for better identification). It seems that creating disorientation and mystification in MSC-Style images prevailed over manufacturing directly recognisable designs during much of the Formative Period.

Figure 33: A. One of the MSC-Style petroglyphs on Boulder TOL-004 at Tolón. Drawing after Pimentel 1986. Fig. 10.3. B. The engravings on the Chiclayo Strombus (notice the differences between the feline-heads [1], the two snake-heads [2] and the human head [3]). Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek; based on Bischof (1994: Fig. 18.c).

Another set of lines at the top of the same panel (2 in Figure 17) may well have been intended to start an MSC-Style head aw well (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 56.8), especially as the little square  (arrow in Figure 17) may represent an eye with an eccentric (?) pupil.


In this paper I discussed two issues regarding the previous recordings of the petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino. First I examined the two published distribution maps of the site (Pimentel 1986: Fig. 55; Tsurumi and Morales 2012: Fig. 3) and concluded that the Pimentel map was only a rough and inaccurate sketch. The map by Tsurumi and Morales was very accurate, despite a few minor differences with the actual situation.

Secondly I challenged the statement by Tsurumi and Morales that most of the petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino would not date from the Formative Period (2012: 148). I convincingly demonstrated that – also at Montegrande – many more images at Quebrada del Felino definitely belong to the Formative Period (or from even older eras). To be more precise, several petroglyphs proved to belong to the MSC-Style; a very specific graphical expression of the coastal Cupisnique cultures of the Formative Period. All the MSC-Style petroglyphs at Quebrada del Felino – like the impressive Big Cat on FEL-003, the faint Cupisnique head on FEL-005, the zoomorphs with tripartite eyes on FEL-008 and FEL-036, the head-element with the row of triangles on FEL-016, FEL-023 and FEL-032 and of course especially the isolated mouth elements on FEL-013 and FEL-048 (and possibly on FEL-008A and FEL-015) – have been manufactured by the local (coastal) Cupisnique cultures. I also argue that many other petroglyphs at the site – non-MSC-Style images, like the S-shaped petroglyphs – may well be of Cupisnique manufacture.

Some images – like the Big Cat – may well have been inspired by the Sechín Culture; one of the several powerful Formative Period (Cupisnique) cultures that once existed along the Peruvian coast. Although several MSC-Style petroglyphs in Jequetepeque may be of a local Cupisnique (Tembladera) origin, it is possible that there once existed a strong influence from the south (especially from Casma and Nepeña). But again I reject (any) influence from the later and once powerful Chavín Cult(ure) in this respect. Researchers that do use rock art as a source of information should never unconditionally accept only a Chavín origin or Chavín influence for MSC-style rock art images. Moreover, based on information from rock art sources, scientists also need to reconsider the Chavín ‘supremacy’. In my opinion the impact of coastal Andean Formative Period ‘Cupisnique’ cultures (especially Manchay, Sechín and Cupisnique) on later Andean graphic expressions has been far more influential than highland Chavín, even when it is accepted that MSC-Style imagery travelled via Chavín.

Obviously, the MSC-style iconography of each of those coastal valleys may show both regional uniformity and local idiosyncrasies and yet all valleys share similar MSC-style elements, such as the eye with the eccentric pupil and the fat lipped and/or the agnatic (and often fanged) mouth. It was rather common for a river valley – or a substantial part of the valley – to have its own distinctive iconography.

Also Jequetepeque seems to have had its own graphic MSC-Style expressions, which is reflected in both ceramic art and in petroglyph art. For instance, a petroglyph on Boulder TOL-006 at Tolón (Figure 34A) has much in common with the petroglyph on Boulder CHU-001 at Chungal (see Figure 25.A.1), but also with the face of a clay figurine of the so called Tembladera Style (Figure 34B). However, it is remarkable to notice that – despite many parallels – hardly ever the pattern of a complex MSC-Style head configuration is found repeated in exactly the same way. It seems that during Cupisnique times confusing uniqueness was more important than easily recognisable duplication and mass-production.

Figure 34: A. Petroglyph on Boulder TOL-006 at Tolón, Jequetepeque (intentionally presented here in an inverted position for a more easy comparison with B; the arrow indicates the present-day slope). Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek. B. The upper part of a clay figurine ‘possibly from somewhere in Jequetepeque’. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Burtenshaw-Zumstein (2013: Fig. 9).

Importantly, regional differentiation was already evident during the Preceramic Period and continued long after the Formative Period. Still, in one single valley influences may have come from several directions. Besides having its specifically local (Cupisnique-Tembladera) MSC-style, Jequetepeque seems to have been influenced by Cupisnique cultures from the north (Zaña and Reque-Chancay). For instance, the strange MSC-style head on panel CMp-308 at Cerro Mulato in Chancay (Van Hoek 2011: Fig. 89; 2012: 146-147) has much in common with the MSC-style heads on Panel TOL-004 at Tolón in Jequetepeque (see Figure 33.A; another example is shown in my video), 77 km to the south. This parallel may however also indicate that imagery once travelled north from Jequetepeque towards Zaña and Reque-Chancay.

But also influence from the south (Sechín – Punkurí) proved to be evident in Jequetepeque, as seems to be evidenced by the Big Cat petroglyph. Therefore, it is certain that Jequetepeque once was (and still is) a major Formative Period centre on the route from the coastal areas to the highlands and vice versa (Tusrumi 2009). However, the general idea emerging is that much of the Andean religious iconography and symbolism mainly originated and developed along the coast and later diffused to highland areas and much later (elements) re-emerged again in the (often changed and adapted) iconographies of several ‘cultures’, both coastal (for instance Moche) and highland (for instance Wari).


I am very grateful to Dr. Eisei Tsurumi from the University Museum of the University of Tokyo, Japan, and Dr. Carlos Morales Castro of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Lima, for sharing much of their published and unpublished material with me and for their useful remarks regarding the rock art sites of Quebrada del Felino, Montegrande, Pampa de Mosquito East, La Bomba and Quindén West. I am also grateful for their permission to use their information in this paper. Because of their informative publications, my wife Elles and I decided to survey Quebrada del Felino ourselves.

Of course we are also very grateful to the local people of Tembladera, especially to the very supportive police-officer who helped us to arrange transport and a guide to the site during a hectic afternoon. Because the water levels of the lake and river were very low at the time of our visit, our guide Carlos decided to walk to the site from Tembladera across the Río Jequetepeque and across the pampa. Yet, even this ‘short’ trip was rather adventurous, tricky and arduous. We therefore would like to thank Carlos for his excellent guidance and assistance.


APPENDIX 1: Rock art sites in the Jequetepeque Valley

            SITE NAME           –           STATUS (2017):

MSC-Style Rock art sites

  1. Tolón or Cafetal published – still existing
  2. Pay Pay Roadside published – still existing but often damaged
  3. Gallito Ciego published – still existing but not at original site
  4. Montegrande published – (partially?) destroyed
  5. Quebrada del Felino published – still existing
  6. Chungal published – destroyed
  7. Cerro Yonán or La Taza unpublished – still existing
  8. Quindén-West published – still existing
  9. Yonán or Santa Clara published – still existing
  10. Cerro San Simón. published – still existing but much destroyed
  11. Playa de los Zorros unpublished – still existing
  12. Quebrada de Pay Pay unpublished – still existing
  13. La Ramada or Lechuzas unpublished – still existing

Non-MSC-Style rock art sites

(at least MSC-Style petroglyphs not reported as yet)

  1. El Pongo published – still existing?
  2. La Bomba unpublished – still existing?
  3. Pampa de Mosquito East unpublished – still existing
  4. Quinden-East publication by Tsurumi and Morales forthcoming

Other possible (!) rock art sites ‘somewhere in Jequetepeque’, of unknown status

  1. Quebrada Piedra del Paltillo Volador
  2. Cerro Tampuco o Tamputoco
  3. El Salitral
  4. Mampuesto
  5. Casa de Torta
  6. La Piedra Escrita
  7. Puente Fierro

Moreover, I have nine photos of petroglyph panels of unknown provenance (downloaded from the internet about 2003), but probably from ‘somewhere in Jequetepeque’. They may include examples of panels from the alleged ‘Sites’ 18 to 24.



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Kan, M. 1972.  The Feline Motif in Northern Peru. In: The Cult of the Feline. A Conference in Pre-Columbian Iconography. Elizabeth P. Benson Editor. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Trustees for Harvard University, Washington, D.C.

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Núñez Jiménez, A. 1986. Petroglifos del Perú. Panorama mundial del arte rupestre. 2da. Ed. PNUD-UNESCO – Proyecto Regional de Patrimonio Cultural y Desarrollo, La Habana.

Pimentel, V. 1988. Petroglifos en el valle de Jequetepeque, Norte del Perú. In: 6° Congreso Peruano Hombre y Cultura Andina: Actas y trabajos. Iriarte Brenner, Francisco: Editor. Universidad Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Facultad de Ciencias Sociales. Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología. CONCYTEC, pp. 113 – 114. Lima.

Stone-Miller, R. 1995. Art of the Andes. From Chavín to Inca. Thames and Hudson.

Suárez Ubillús, M. 2010. Mesapatac: Litoesculturas del Arcaico Tardío en Yaután. Lima, Perú. Internet publication.

Tello, J. C. 1960. Chavín. Cultura matriz de la civilización andina. Primera parte. Publicación Antropológica del Archivo “Julio C. Tello” de la Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, vol. II. Lima.

Tsurumi, E. 2009. Social process in the Andean Formative of the middle Jequetepeque Valley, Northern Peru. Ph.D. dissertation (published in Japanese). University of Tokyo, Japan.

Tsurumi, E. and C. Morales. 2010. Asentamientos y Petroglifos del Formativo en el Valle Medio del Jequetepeque, Perú. Resúmenes del VIII Simposio Internacional de Arte Rupestre. San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina.

Tsurumi, E. and C. Morales Castro. 2012. Plataforma con petroglifo del Periodo Formativo en la Pampa de Mosquito, valle medio de Jequetepeque. In: Arqueológicas. Vol. 29: 19-35. Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú, Lima.

Tsurumi, E. and C. Morales Castro. 2013. Un gato con muchas vidas: un petroglifo Arcaico Tardío en el Valle de Jequetepeque (Perú). In: Mundo de Antes. Vol. 8 (2013); pp. 141 – 157

Van Hoek, M. 2007. Petroglifos Chavinoides cerca de Tomabal, Valle de Virú, Perú. Boletín de SIARB. Vol. 21; pp. 76 – 88. La Paz, Bolivia.

Van Hoek, M. 2011. The Chavín Controversy – Rock Art from the Andean Formative Period. Oisterwijk, The Netherlands.

Van Hoek, M. 2012. Cerro Mulato: Rock Art of the Reque-Chancay Drainage, Peru. Oisterwijk, The Netherlands.

Van Hoek, M. 2014. The Tumi-Bearer of Pampa Grande, Lambayeque, Peru. Adoranten. Vol. 2013; pp. 97 – 109. Underslös, Sweden.

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