False Information Concerning Majes Rock Art, Peru

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Scientific publications should always be reliable. The content may never be incorrect or misleading. This also goes for publications regarding rock art, whether by amateurs or by academics. This short paper deals with two photographs of petroglyphs from the Majes Valley, southern Peru, and the conclusions based upon those illustrations published by two academics from the USA. Regrettably, both the photos and the conclusions are unambiguously incorrect.

By Maarten van Hoek



False Information

Concerning Majes Rock Art, Peru



Maarten van Hoek




In 2020, when looking for additional information about the rock art in the Majes Valley of southern Peru, I came across two upsetting “photos” published by two academic bio-archaeologists, Beth Scaffidi (then School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA) and Tiffiny Tung (Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA). The two alarming “photos” concern Fig. 3 (a) and (b) of their research article which was published in January 2020, called: “Endemic violence in a pre-Hispanic Andean community: A bioarchaeological study of cranial trauma from the Majes Valley, Peru”; American Journal of Physical Anthropology; Issue 2020; pp. 1 – 24.

In November 2020 I published my criticisms about their 2020-paper in TRACCE, which – because after 2020 additional information and evidence became available –  is hereby replaced by this updated and revised version (dated November 2023). In this 2023-revision I will again, yet more fully discuss the serious flaws of the two “photos” published by Scaffidi and Tung, as well as the incorrect caption and their conclusions regarding Majes rock art.

Because I published this revision in November 2023, it was possible to include information that became available to me after the publication of my 2020-paper (the original 2020-paper [which is no longer accessible at TRACCE] is still available as a private PDF in my personal website). As a consequence in this 2023-revision you will see dates like 2022 and 2023 and more informative details about the false “photos” published by Scaffidi and Tung (2020).


The Two “Photographs”

To start with, the caption of the two “photographs” published by Scaffidi and Tung (2020: Fig. 3) has some serious flaws. Their caption more or less reads (I am not allowed to quote Scaffidi; please read the factual caption of their paper here): Photograph recording aggressive practices from rock art images near the Uraca burial sites. (a) Anthropomorph carrying a “Trophy” Head  in its right hand and a possible weapon in the other hand, and (b) anthropomorph whose right hand ends in a “Trophy” Head , possibly having a spear or shield in the other hand. Petroglyph “a” (see Figure 3) is found at Toro Muerto (west bank). Petroglyph “b” (see Figure 4) is found at Alto de Pitis (east bank). Further down I will explain why I do not approve of their Fig. 3 being labelled as an authentic photograph. Hence my labelling of “photographs” or “photos” whenever this proved to be necessary in this study (and in other studies).

There are several serious issues regarding their published  “photograph” and its caption. Firstly, the 2020-caption of their Fig. 3 does not state whether the authors chalked/painted-in the petroglyphs in the field (which would be inexcusable), or that they digitally superimposed their (incorrect!) interpretations of the petroglyphs onto their (?) original photos. Therefore, in the caption of the two “photos” published by Scaffidi and Tung (2020: Fig. 3) it should have been described what was done either with the petroglyphs in the field, or with the original photos to get this result (illustrated in Figure 1), which both will prove to be factually misleading. Their “photos” (Fig. 3) are definitely not photos.

Click any illustration to see an enlargement.

Figure 1: The two incorrect “tracings” of the petroglyphs as published by Scaffidi and Tung (see my photos [Figures 3 and 4] and Figure 5 to compare with; also compare drawing “B” with my drawing on the cover of this study). Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek, based on the two “photographs” published by Scaffidi and Tung (2020: Fig. 3), which are not photos.

Surprisingly, Scaffidi (and Tung) themselves solved the problem and explained what was done to get that (still misleading) result. In their 2022-“Erratum” (only dealing with the caption of  their 2020-Fig. 3; not with the falseness of their Fig. 3) they explained that – and all this happened before July 2019 – they first made D-Stretch photos of the original photos (which were never made public, nor shared with me after several requests). They made those D-Stretch photos because they themselves regarded the originals not sufficiently legible, as is clearly evidenced by the caption of Fig. 2 (Figure 2) in another paper by Scaffidi et al. (2022).

Figure 2. Map of west Arequipa (with the original caption), showing the two D-Stretch photos (that are far too small; enlargements can be seen here) of Boulder TM-Da-032 at Toro Muerto (“a” on the map above) and Panel AP3-065A at Alto de Pitis (“c” on the map above). Map and caption published by Scaffidi et al. (2022: Fig. 2; reproduced here with additions in red made by me under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Also see the Addendum at the end.

Then, based on those D-Stretch photos, they made “tracings” of the two petroglyphs (the white lines in their Fig. 3), which apparently they regarded to be perfect. However, every unbiased observer must admit that their “tracings” do not at all match the factual layout of the two petroglyphs (evidenced in Figures 3 and 4). Also academic archaeologist Justin Jennings (after 2020) admitted that their Fig. 3 was incorrect. Yet, Scaffidi and Tung still decided to digitally superimpose those evidently incorrect “tracings” (see Figure 1) onto the original photos (all this happened before July 2019), which were eventually published in January 2020. It is now a fact that their “tracings” are definitely incorrect. Moreover, their Fig. 3 cannot be labelled as an authentic photograph (hence the “ ”). Regarding creating “tracings” in general, it is highly desirable to publish an (as correct as possible!) tracing of a petroglyph, preferably placed next to the original (if possible) photograph of the same petroglyph so that everyone can check the tracing for correctness (there are many acceptable possibilities to do this; see for several instances: Van Hoek 2022a: Figs 10, 11, 14 and 18; Van Hoek 2022b: Figs 8, 11 and 18).

Secondly, the authorship of their (?) “photos” is not mentioned in their 2020-caption and it is thus uncertain who the author(s) actually is (are). Now – writing 2023 – it is still unknown to me who actually made the original photo and who made their incorrect “tracings” (see Van Hoek 2023: Note 3). However, whoever made those incorrect “tracings”, Scaffidi and Tung remain accountable for publishing incorrect material.

Thirdly and most worryingly, I already stated that both “photos” of their Fig. 3 are completely incorrect (see Figures 3 and 4). Fourthly, because their “photos” are digitally fabricated and thus misleading, their conclusions are misleading as well. Based on their incorrect “photos” Scaffidi and Tung notably claim (2020: 7; Fig. 3) that petroglyph imagery at Toro Muerto expresses an obsession with aggression. Several scenes show a therianthrope (a halfhuman, half-animal figure) carrying a “Trophy” Head by the hair (Fig. 3a); a feline carrying a “Trophy” Head by the hair from its mouth (Fig. 3b); and at the rock art site of Alto de Pitis, on the other side of the Majes Valley, there is a warrior wearing a decorated garment carrying a “Trophy” Head (Fig. 3b). Finally they refer to Núñez Jiménez (1986) and Van Hoek (2010).

Therefore, their illustrations (see Figure 1 and their Fig. 3) are worrying for another reason. The authors could easily (during the preparation of their research article prior to July 2019!) have checked the authenticity and correctness of their two “photos”, especially as they refer to the work by Núñez Jiménez (1986) and to my 2010-publication. First of all, although many drawings by Núñez Jiménez are notoriously incorrect (Van Hoek 2011), his drawing of the “Trophy” Head Carrier (1986: Fig. 2304) is almost flawless. Moreover, my 2010-publication also features a (only slightly different) drawing of the same “Trophy” Head Carrier on Boulder TM-Da-032 at Toro Muerto (Van Hoek 2010: Fig. 2), which Scaffidi and Tung are supposed to have seen (why else referring to two publications and not using them?). Not only factually correct illustrations of the petroglyphs in their Fig. 3 were already published in 2010, also in the next year a similar drawing was published in a book questioning many of Núñez Jiménez’ drawings (Van Hoek 2011: 123). Moreover, my photograph of their Fig. 3b was also published by me somewhat later (Van Hoek 2013: Fig. 129). Nevertheless, Scaffidi and Tung decided to publish their incorrect “photograph” and their incorrect conclusions, apparently without checking things. Most importantly, their Fig. 3a is not a therianthrope. It clearly is a fully frontally depicted anthropomorphic figure. And there are no various scenes featuring therianthropes. Moreover, this “Trophy” Head Carrier definitely does not hold a possible weapon from any hand. Their rock art related conclusions are completely fabricated, being based on (only two!) false “photographs” and possibly on self-deception only.

Also, their Fig. 3b is definitely not an anthropomorph possibly carrying a spear or shield in the left hand. I even doubt for several reasons if indeed the figure is a warrior. In fact the two feet and the left arm and left hand are not even shown in their “photo” and they misinterpreted a rake-like petroglyph to its left (a crudely executed zoomorph?) as a spear or shield. I cannot recall to have ever seen an anthropomorphic figure in Majes Rock Art carrying a shield and the only unambiguous depictions of spears (arrows or atlatls) in Majes rock art have been recorded at the rock art site of Chillihuay in Ocoña (Van Hoek 2014; however: see the Addendum). Finally, in an earlier publication I expressed my doubts whether the right hand of their Fig. 3b is holding a “Trophy” Head (Van Hoek 2010: 11). The two “eyes” in the hand of the figure in their Fig. 3b are in fact a cluster of random (natural or anthropic?) markings. Concluding, both their “photographs” and their conclusions based on those “photos” are false.

Enlarge this illustration to see the details even better.

Figure 3. The “Trophy” Head Carrier on Boulder TM-Da-032 at Toro Muerto, Majes Valley. It is beyond any doubt that the “tracing” (orange inset above) of this petroglyph by Scaffidi and Tung (2020: Fig. 3a) is factually incorrect. The white lines in their Fig. 3 are explained by them (in their otherwise irrelevant 2022-Erratum) to represent “tracings” that they derived from their D-Stretched photo of the original photo (which I was never allowed to see). However, their 2019-D-Stretched photo-(a) is severely blurred, and as a consequence they created incorrect “tracings”. And still Scaffidi and Tung decided to publish those incorrect “tracings”! My  unaltered photo also convincingly proves that there is no weapon (which is also confirmed by academic archaeologist Justin Jennings). Photograph (only enhanced by me) and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek; my drawing based on the “photo” by Scaffidi and Tung 2020: Fig. 3).

Enlarge this illustration to see the details even better.

Figure 4. Panel TM-Da-032 at Alto de Pitis. It is beyond any doubt that the “tracing” of this petroglyph by Scaffidi and Tung (2020: Fig. 3b; Inset “A” above) is demonstrably incorrect (also confirmed by Justin Jennings). Again, the white lines in their Fig. 3 are explained by them (2022-Erratum) to represent “tracings” derived from their D-Stretched photo. It is inexplicable that their D-Stretched photo-(b) is faultless, while their “tracings” do not match the D-Stretched photo at all. And yet Scaffidi and Tung decided to publish their incorrect “tracings”! Again there is no weapon. Photograph (only enhanced by me) and drawings © by Maarten van Hoek; drawing “A” based on Scaffidi and Tung 2020: Fig. 3b (more detailed info in Van Hoek 2023).



It is evident that this study does not offer just a hypothesis. On the contrary, my investigations offer solid proof that Scaffidi and/or Tung published false information. First (before July 2019) they found or made photographs of two petroglyphs; the originals (which were never shared with me). Those originals were not considered to be legible enough by them (see Figure 2) and for that reason Scaffidi and/or Tung changed the originals into D-Strech photos, which, in itself, is no problem (however the examples in Figure 2 are [too] small; larger formats available here).

However, their D-Stretch photo of the Toro Muerto petroglyph (Figure 3) turned out rather blurred (and thus badly legible!) and yet Scaffidi and/or Tung approved of it and decided to create a “tracing” (see Figure 3: inset), which eventually proved to be factually incorrect. Their D-Stretch photo of the Alto de Pitis petroglyph (Figure 4) rather accurately displayed the correct layout of the petroglyph and yet Scaffidi and/or Tung decided to create a “tracing” (see Figure 4: inset) which again turned out to be factually incorrect. In my opinion the several inaccuracies and errors in their “tracings” must have been noticed by Scaffidi and/or Tung. They may even have compared their “tracings” with the earlier published illustrations by Núñez Jiménez and me (2010), but if they did, those correct renderings were apparently ignored (apparently because of the lack of weapons, which they added). Finally, their incorrect “tracings” were digitally superimposed upon their original photos and the result (their false Fig. 3) was published in 2020, together with false conclusions. I now leave it to the unbiased reader to draw his or her own conclusion, having read the facts. My personal conclusions can be read here.



Every researcher will agree that it is completely inexcusable for scientists (whether amateur or academic) to publish false information, whether this concerns illustrations or textual information. Earlier I exposed a rock art researcher for falsely manipulating a photo of the well-known Cupisnique petroglyph at Palamenco in northern Peru (Van Hoek 2011: 64, 71) in order to make his photo looking like the incorrect (!) drawing by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 1053). In this case the researcher honourably admitted his manipulation and apologised for his error on the internet; an admirable example of integrity. Scaffidi and Tung never did!

Mind you, I am not claiming that Núñez Jiménez intentionally made incorrect drawings; in his case they only concern understandable time-related cases of sloppiness caused by the mountains of drawings, photos and sketches that he made during his many years of surveying rock art sites in Peru. My main concern was and still is that the incorrect illustrations by Núñez Jiménez (and by others!) are being used and published as if they represent the correct images. My recommendation therefore is either not to use any illustration by Núñez Jiménez or any of the illustrations discussed in my 2016-publication (unless you have checked in the field or via reliable photos that the illustration is correct), or to mention their incorrectness in the intended publication. This also goes for the incorrect Fig. 3 by Scaffidi and Tung (2020).

Because my integrity dictates me not to accept publication of false information (and no-one should), I published a paper in 2016 in which I questioned the incorrect illustrations of Andean rock art images published by several academic archaeologists. The title of that publication (in Spanish) speaks for itself. In the paper I also questioned the incorrect illustrations published by Maritza Rodríguez Cerrón and Daniel Chumpitaz Llerena (2014). However, also those two professional archaeologists chose to ignore my 2016-publication and my recommendations, as in 2020 they used the same incorrect illustrations in an online presentation about rock art at Chillihuay (Ocoña, southern Peru). Therefore I published my criticism again, in English and in Spanish (Van Hoek 2020), but the only reaction of Daniel Chumpitaz Llerena was that I was free to express my opinion. Obviously Chumpitaz Llerena completely missed the point. My problem was not “not having freedom of speech”, but the fact that certain academic scientists (fortunately only a minority) prefer to repeat their mistakes – or the mistakes made by other “scientists” – and thus (prefer to) continue to publish false information. The false (rock art related) information published by such “scientists” is then no longer reliable. It is also a sad situation when illustrations are manipulated, apparently in order to add more authority to a publication. This also goes the 2020-publication by Scaffidi and Tung, whether this was done intentionally or not (however, see my personal opinion on my personal webpage). My recommendations therefore are: Never publish incorrect illustrations (without an alert) or false information. And if it is clear that an illustration is definitely incorrect and thus misleading, it should never be published by anyone ever again, as if it is correct. This also goes for the incorrect “photos” / “tracings” of  Fig. 3 made and published by Scaffidi and Tung (2020).

Figure 5. My drawings of the petroglyphs at Toro Muerto (A) and at Alto de Pitis (B). Compare with Figures 1, 3 and 4. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek.



Álvarez Zeballos, P. J. 2009. Petroglifos de Cantas, Pitis, La Mezana y La Laja; Valle de Majes. Once available online at: Arqueología de Perú. PDF available from the author.

Chumpitaz Llerena D., Rodríguez Cerrón M. 2014. Los Petroglifos de Chillihuay: La imagen antropomorfa (del formativo al perío o de integración Wari). In: Rupestreweb.

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.

Rodríguez Cerrón, M. and D. Chumpitaz Llerena. 2020. Charla Rupestre: Los Petroglifos de Chillihuay. Arequipa. Video on YouTube.

Scaffidi, B. 2020. “Droughts, Water Security, and the Rise and Fall of the Wari Empire”. Unpublished (?) document.

Scaffidi, B. and T. Tung. 2020. Endemic violence in a pre-Hispanic Andean community: A bioarchaeological study of cranial trauma from the Majes Valley, Peru. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Vol. 2020; pp. 1 – 24. PDF available at Academia.

Scaffidi, B. K., G. D. Kamenov, A. E. Sharpe and J. Krigbaum. 2022 (published online 2021). Non-Local Enemies or Local Subjects of Violence?: Using Strontium (87Sr/86Sr) and Lead (206Pb/204Pb, 207Pb/204Pb, 208Pb /204Pb) Isobiographies to Reconstruct Geographic Origins and Early Childhood Mobility of Decapitated Male Heads from the Majes Valley, Peru. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. Vol. 29; pp. 426 – 479. PDF.

Van Hoek, M. 2010. “Trophy” Heads in the Rock Art of the Majes Valley, Peru: Exploring their Possible Origin. In: Rupestreweb.

Van Hoek, M. 2011. Petroglyphs of Peru – Following the Footsteps of Antonio Núñez Jiménez. PDF available at ResearchGate.

Van Hoek, M. 2013. The Carcancha and the Apu. Rock Art in the Death Valley of the Andes. PDF available at ResearchGate.

Van Hoek, M. 2014. The shaman, the lord and the warrior: anthropomorphic petroglyphs at Chillihuay, Arequipa, Peru. In: Rupestreweb.

Van Hoek, M. 2016. Sobre Dibujos de Arte Rupestre (Andino). Una Petición Para Sólo Publicar Dibujos Que Son Científicamente Sólidos. In: TRACCE – Online Rock Art Bulletin, Italy.

Van Hoek, M. 2020. Enfrentando los dibujos… ¡otra vez! (Perú). Confronting the Drawings … Again! (Peru). In: TRACCE – Online Rock Art Bulletin, Italy.

Van Hoek, M. 2022a. The Case of Boulder AP3-172, Alto de Pitis, Majes Valley, Southern Peru. In: TRACCE – Online Rock Art Bulletin, Italy.

Van Hoek, M. 2022b. The Majes “Dancer” – Analysing an Enigmatic Icon. Book available as PDF only at ResearchGate.

Van Hoek, M. 2023. A Study of Boulder AP3-065, Alto de Pitis, Majes Valley, Southern Peru. In: TRACCE – Online Rock Art Bulletin, Italy.



When – in October 2023 – preparing this revision of my paper “False Information Concerning Majes Rock Art”, I came across a document on the internet that was called “Droughts, Water Security, and the Rise and Fall of the Wari Empire”. Unfortunately the document itself contained no publishing details. There was no name of the author, no date and no publisher; just text and four illustrations (all maps). The maps contained source-information, except for Fig. 3 (obviously a Google Earth Map). Some rock art sites were marked on those maps, but a few were not correctly located (Chillihuay and Pitis in Fig. 2 and Ananta in Fig. 4).

Because the name of Scaffidi was mentioned several times in the document, I searched the internet for further information and found the following reference: “RFF-2022-193 Cassandra K. Scaffidi, University of California, Merced. Droughts, Water Security, and the Rise and Fall of the Wari Empire.” [Arequipa, Peru]”. Therefore I think that Prof. Beth Scaffidi is the author of this document, which also seems to be confirmed by the label of the PDF-document: BKS_PQC_SB_MB_Caraveli_Survey_AIA_Herzig_11_2_2020.pdf; BKS most likely meaning Beth Koontz Scaffidi and the (surveying, writing, publishing?) date thus seems to be 2020. For those reasons I will refer to this document as “Scaffidi 2020” (not 2019 or 2022).

I now will explain the relevance of Scaffidi’s 2020-document in view of my 2023-revision of my 2020-paper. In 2021 Scaffidi, Kamenov, Sharpe and Krigbaum published a paper in which their Fig. 2 (see Figure 2 in this paper) included two photos of petroglyphs “from the Caravelí Valley” (Figs 2f and g). The author of those two photos was not mentioned in the text or caption, but I suppose it was Scaffidi, because her 2021 Fig. 2g also appeared as photo “e” (left) in Fig. 3 of her (?) 2020 document (again, the caption offered no information about who took the photos). Most importantly however, her 2020-photo “e” (right) showed the petroglyph of an anthropomorphic figure that I had no knowledge of (Figure 6; “?” indicating my uncertainties). Although the author (Scaffidi 2020: 2) spoke of martial figures with armaments and beheaded “Trophy” Heads (all plural), only photos of two petroglyphs were presented in the document.

Fig. 3e-right appears to represent a fully frontally depicted warrior, which seems to be indicated by the (broken off?) spear (with a large, outlined triangular spear-head) held in its left hand. The “right-arm” cannot be identified as such and seems to have been replaced by some unknown object (a fully pecked triangular object with a short handle [with a ring mark just below the handle]; a knife?). The rectangular, outlined head (with a short neck) encloses chaotic facial features and seems to be topped by a simple headdress. It has short, outlined legs that end in large (Carcancha-Style?) outlined feet (one damaged), having four short digits. Its thorax encloses two nested, V-shaped grooves (ribs?), while further up is a rectangular feature that reminds me of the petroglyph of a (Páracas-Style?) “operated-on” victim (?) that I recorded at Alto de Pitis in the Majes Valley (Van Hoek 2013: Figs 131 and 132).

This Caravelí petroglyph (a warrior and/or a victim?), together with the “Trophy” Head Carrier of the Scaffidi 2020-photo (“e”- left) seem to offer convincing evidence that violence occurred in Caravelí, as well as in the other drainages of the Majes Rock Art Style, with – however – a possible preference of creating “warrior” imagery in the west of the MRAS (Caravelli and Chillihuay in Ocoña [Van Hoek 2013: Figs 88 and 89]). Finally, I am convinced that possibly more “warrior” petroglyphs are waiting to be discovered in the MRAS.

Figure 6. Petroglyph of a possible Warrior-Victim, recorded in the Caravelí Valley (possibly by Scaffidi in 2020), at a “new-to-me” rock art site (labelled Torrentera de Llojllasca by me). This “new-to-me” site [located roughly at about at 5° 52′ 47.43″ S and 73° 18′ 45.58″ W] is found on the west (?) bank of the valley (Scaffidi 2020: Fig. 4), just north of the confluence of the Río Caravelí and the dry quebrada of Torrentera de Llojllasca, and approximately 2.5 km south of the rock art site of Kukuli [maquetas at 15° 51′ 21.20″ S and 73° 18′ 41.05″ W]. Rough sketch © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Scaffidi 2020 (?): Fig. 3 “e”-left.

Scaffidi, B. (?) 2020 (?). “Droughts, Water Security, and the Rise and Fall of the Wari Empire”. Unpublished (?) document: PDF.

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