Vítor Valley Rock Art Sites: Tacar

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The coastal areas of the Department of Arequipa in southern Peru are very rich in rock art. Most of the rock art sites are found along or very near river valleys. One of those river valleys that is rich in rock art is the valley of the Río Vítor. In this study the rock art in the stretch of river between the confluence with the Río Yura in the north of the Vítor-Chili drainage and the confluence with the Río Sihuas, further downstream, will be discussed.

By Maarten van Hoek


Vítor Valley Rock Art Sites: Tacar



Maarten van Hoek



The coastal areas of the Department of Arequipa in southern Peru are very rich in rock art. Most of the rock art sites are found along or very near river valleys (like Toro Muerto in the Majes Valley) or on routes from one valley to another. One of those river valleys that is rich in rock art is the valley of the Río Vítor. In this study the rock art in the stretch of river between the confluence with the Río Yura in the north of the Vítor-Chili drainage and the confluence with the Río Sihuas, further downstream, will be discussed (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The location of the rock art sites in Vítor. Maps © by Maarten van Hoek, based on OpenStreetMap-Contributors and Google Earth. Cover photo (above): Panels TAC-020 and 21 at Tacar. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Click on any illustration to see an enlargement. Click on the enlargement to return to the TRACCE web page.


Rock Art Sites in the Vítor Valley

The imagery of the Vítor Valley rock art mainly belongs to the MRAS, the Majes Rock Art Style, comprising the rock art group from the Caravelí Valley in the west to the Vítor drainage in the east (see Van Hoek 2018 for more information). In this study I present a list of twenty-one rock art sites that seem to have been recorded in a “short” stretch of the valley of the Río Vítor. However, the number 21 may well be incorrect. First of all, there may be sites that have up to now never been located (despite being published) and secondly, some of the entries in the list may represent replicates, as different researchers have given different names for one specific site, often mismatching labels rather confusingly. It has been tried in this study to sort out this problem (without success, though). Thirdly, even as it seems that most rock art sites are found on the west bank of the valley, there are a few sites that are located on the east bank (like – possibly – Site 6). However, the east bank is very prone to massive landslides that may possibly have destroyed some rock art sites.

The reason why rock art accumulated in the relatively short stretch between Site 1 (Palca) and Site 18 (Boyadero) is explained by the presence of the fertile, arable valley floor in this section. East of Palca and south of Boyadero the river valley turns into steep-sided and often very narrow, rocky canyons. Importantly however, there may be another reason why the west bank is favoured for rock art production. This specific motivation is also present at the rock art of Tacar, the main subject of this study, and this reason will be more fully discussed further on. I have only visited the sites of Sotillo, Desamparados (both without success), Tacar and La Cantera, but I also managed to find out the (more exact) location of several other sites with the aid of Google Earth (all altitudes, distances, co-ordinates and most locations in this study are based on Google Earth and may only be approximate).


List of Vítor Sites

SITE 1: Palca or La Palca. Site overlooking the valley floor (which is at about 1460 m asl) at the confluence of the Río Chili-Vítor and the Río Yura (also known as the Río Aycata). Site possibly located at 16° 22.621’S – 71° 48.173’W and at 1485 m asl. Unpublished. I know of at least seven or eight panels with (mainly MRAS) petroglyphs. Not visited.

SITE 2: Hacienda el Chañal (mentioned and illustrated by Quiroz Neyra 2007: 73 and 74). Possibly located at 16° 27.518’S – 71° 53.866’W (if correct: at 1230 m asl). At least two boulders with petroglyphs (depicting zoomorphs of the MRAS). Not visited.

SITE 3: Túnel or El Polvorín de Vítor (Hostnig 2003: 63: Petroglifos asociados a tumbas. Representaciones de camélidos y aves. Bibliografía: Linares [1979: 22; 1992a: 124]). Hostnig also remarks: “Ubicación: Cerca de Quilcapampa”, a rock art site in the Sihuas Valley, 27 km to the NW of Vítor, while Linares Málaga locates this site near the exit of the Vítor – Lima tunnel; today a much disturbed area (approximately 16° 28.046’S – 71° 57.062’W [if correct: at 1325 m asl]). Published illustrations and information (possibly unreliable) by Linares Málaga 1973 [2013]: 643; Figs 52 to 54. Not visited.

SITE 4: Sotillo 1 and 2 (Hostnig 2003: 61; Núñez Jiménez 1986: 559 – 562; Ravines 1986: 17) or La Panamericana (according to RDN 2009: No. 1724), because the panels are located in a narrow gorge directly along the Panamericana Sur. According to Ran Boytner there are more rock art sites in this gorge (pers. comm. 2009). Published information (possibly unreliable) by Linares Málaga 1973 (2013: 636 -637; Figs 47 and 48) and Núñez Jiménez who mentions three sites, but does not distinguish them (1986: 559 – 562). Visited; not surveyed, especially because several panels proved to have been shamefully vandalised.

SITE 5: Oyanguren (Hostnig 2003: 53: Petroglifos. Presencia de tumbas. Bibliografía: Linares [1992:147]). Not visited. No further information or illustrations available.

SITE 6: La Cano (Hostnig 2003: 50: Petroglifos. Presencia de tumbas. Bibliografía: Linares [1992:147]). Unknown location. Site possibly located at 16° 30.023’S – 71° 56.122’W [if correct: at 1240 m asl] on the east bank of the valley. Not visited. No further information or illustrations available.

SITE 7: Desamparados or Pampa Desamparados (located at 16° 30.459’S – 71° 57.160’W [at 1117 m asl]). These two entries most likely refer to the same site (Linares Málaga 2004: 30 and 33). On this pampa we only noticed rows of large boulders that all have been moved and/or displaced. No petroglyphs were noticed at the time of our visit. This entry by Linares Málaga might also refer to Site 8.

SITE 8: TACAR (Linares Málaga 2004: 39; Hostnig 2003: 61: Bibliografía: Linares [1979: 22; 1985: 36; 1992: 147]) or Hacienda La Gamio (Quiroz Neyra 2007) or Gamio or La Capilla (see Site 9) and even (incorrectly) Ophelan (a rock art site which is located 7.5 km further SSW). Located on average at 16° 31.329’S – 71° 57.831’W (at 1117 m and 1200 m asl). Photos and information of some panels published by me (Van Hoek 2013: 59 – 61; Figs 52, 56 to 58). Visited and surveyed. Details are available below.

SITE 9: La Capilla (two sites are – according to Linares Málaga [2008: 89] – roughly located at spots on the steep slope just south of Tacar: 16° 31.531’S –  71° 57.903’W [at 1155 m asl] and 16° 31.451’S – 71° 57.872’W [at 1144 m asl]). Site name linked by me with the two sites on the map by Linares Málaga (see Figure 4). Not visited. No further information or illustrations available.

SITE 10: La Pampilla (Linares Málaga 2004: 33), possibly called La Quebrada as well (located at 16° 31.823’S – 71° 58.026’W [at 1161 m asl]). Not visited. Small but important petroglyph site, unfortunately damaged and vandalised. Several petroglyph panels. Not visited. One damaged panel shows two large, fully frontally depicted anthropomorphic figures, an insect-like image and two quadrupeds (Figure 2B). Large parts of this panel have been chipped off (by vandals or robbers, so it seems). Therefore it is no longer possible to view the complete set. Interestingly, an early photograph (2009) clearly shows two “labia-like” appendages from the genital area (Figure 2A), which most likely indicates female sex. The sex of the right-hand figure could no longer unambiguously be established because of earlier damage, but it might have been male, like another, clearly male anthropomorphic petroglyph at the same site (Figure 2C). Sex-less figures also occur (Figure 2D). Notable for this site are anthropomorphic petroglyphs with a rectangular or circular bisected head, often with two dots for eyes, giving them an “alien” appearance. A similar anthropomorphic petroglyph has been recorded on Panel TM-Sw-013B at Toro Muerto. Also special is an “insect-like” figure with six limbs, each ending in three short digits (top of Figure 2B).

Figure 2A: Petroglyph on a damaged panel from La Pampilla. B: The same panel but even more damaged. C and D: Anthropomorphic figures on other panels at La Pampilla. All drawings © by Maarten van Hoek; A (also incomplete!), C and D: based on a photographs by Ellior Malcon Vizcarra Velarde (2007: no longer available on the internet); B: based on a photograph by  Rafa Mercado.

SITE 11: La Aguirre. Petroglyph site (mentioned in RDN No. 1724: 2009). Located just south of La Capilla? at UTM Este: 183627 and Norte: 8171497. Not visited. No further information or illustrations available. Might be the same site as La Pampilla.

SITE 12: Huachipa (Hostnig 2003: 47: Petroglifos. Bibliografía: Linares [1979: 22; 1992a: 106); 1999: 175]). According to Linares Málaga (2008: 87) Huachipa is roughly located at four spots between 1115 m (possibly at 16° 32.360’S – 71° 58.475’W) and 1150 m asl (possibly at 16° 31.403’Z – 71° 58.475’W). Illustrations: Linares Málaga 2008: 90; Hostnig 2003: 47. Van Hoek 2013: Figs 53 and 54; based on photos van Rodolfo Talavera Zuñiga. Not visited.

SITE 13: El Puente (Hostnig 2003: 46: Petroglifos. Bibliografía: Linares [1979: 22]; Linares Málaga [2004: 30]. According to the map by Linares Málaga (2008: 87) there may be three sites at El Puente (two at La Goyeneche [my labelling] and one at La Travada [my labelling]) all located just south of Huachipa (estimated to be roughly located at 16° 32.912’S – 71° 58.467’W [at 1091 m asl]; 16° 33.097’S – 71° 58.488’W [at 1099 m asl] and at 16° 33.171’S – 71° 58.550’W [at 1128m asl]). Not visited. No further information or illustrations available.

SITE 14: Majuelo (according to RDN No. 1724: 2009). No further information or illustrations available. This site might be the same as Site 15 (La Berenguela). Not visited. No further information or illustrations available.

SITE 15: Berenguela or La Berenguela (Linares Málaga 2004: 33). At least two panels with (mainly MRAS) petroglyphs roughly located at 16° 33.472’S – 71° 58.998’W (at 1093 m asl). Not visited.

SITE 16: La Cantera (Hostnig 2003: 50: Petroglifos. Bibliografía: Linares [1991-1992: 109]). Highest panel exactly located at 16° 33.649’S – 71° 59.110’W (at 1098 m asl). Visited and surveyed. At least eight panels with petroglyphs, several of the MRAS, including three, possibly four “Trophy” Heads (Figure 3B).

Figure 3A: Location of La Cantera (decorated boulders are marked with *, but Boulder CNV-001 is not visible). B: Close-up of Panel CNV-004, located at 1098 m asl. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

SITE 17: Las Ophelan (Ex hacienda) (Hostnig 2003: 51: Petroglifos. Presencia de tumbas. Bibliografía: Linares [1979: 22; 1992a: 86; 1992b: 147]; Trujillo V. [2001, 2004]); Cañón El Quema(d?)o (Trujillo Vera 2007); Hacienda Ophelan (Trujillo Vera 2001). Roughly located at 16° 34.633’S – 72° 0.266’W (only 165 m NW of the valley floor of the Río Vítor; at 1125 m asl). At least one large, vertical outcrop panel with numerous petroglyphs (including a simple Majes “Dancer”?). Not visited.

SITE 18: Boyadero (Hostnig 2003: 44: Petroglifos. Presencia de tumbas. Bibliografía: Linares [1979: 22; 1992: 147]; Trujillo V. [2001]; Trujillo Vera 2004); Cañón El Quema(d?)o (Trujillo Vera 2007). Exactly located at 16° 35.594’S – 72° 0.883’W (at 982 m asl and only 35 m north of the Río Vítor). Not visited. Several granite boulders with mainly abstract petroglyphs and some zoomorphic images.

SITE 19: Hucchas (Trujillo Vera 2004: “…hay petroglifos representando camélidos en actitud de caravana.”). Location unknown, but possibly about 25 km west of Boyadero. Not visited. No further information or illustrations available.

SITE 20: La Caleta (Linares Málaga 2004: 33). Unknown location. May be an alternative name of one of the sites mentioned above. No further information or illustrations available.

SITE 21: Los Diablos (Linares Málaga 2004: 33). Unknown location. May be an alternative name of one of the sites mentioned above. No further information or illustrations available.



The rock art site of Tacar (Site 8) is known for at least 45 years (writing 2022), since a map of Tacar published by Linares Málaga (2008: 89) is dated 1975 (Figure 4). According to that map Linares Málaga seems to have registered only five boulders with petroglyphs at Tacar (indicated with yellow circles in Figure 4). It is unknown which decorated panels he has surveyed, as he did not publish any illustration of Tacar rock art, at least not in the publications that I have available. In 2007 Quiroz Neyra published photos of two panels at “Hacienda La Gamio”, which definitely concerned two panels on Boulder TAC-013 at Tacar. The locals refer to the rock art at Tacar as ‘pinturas’, because in several cases the whitish, often fully pecked petroglyphs seem to have been painted onto the reddish natural surface (Van Hoek 2015). However, all images that we inspected at this site concern petroglyphs.

Figure 4: Map by Linares Málaga, dated 1975, showing the location of Tacar and (possibly) La Capilla. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Linares Málaga (2008: 89).

Our survey at Tacar yielded a minimum of 63 panels with petroglyphs (on both boulders and outcrops), although there may of course be more panels and/or more images that escaped being noticed, especially on the higher crags. It is remarkable that many petroglyphs at Tacar have been (rather deeply) incised, while on several panels there is a confusing mix of incised and (often crudely) pecked petroglyphs. A number of clearly biomorphic petroglyphs have been labelled “lizard-anthropomorphs”, because it is not clear whether a reptile or an anthropomorph has been depicted. Below follows a list that briefly describes which panels and petroglyphs have been recorded by us. The following map (Figure 5) shows the approximated location of all panels recorded by us. Of course there may still be more decorated panels, especially along the upper cliff edge extending to the south.

Figure 5: Map showing the location of the most of the rock art panels at Tacar (some locations are only approximated) and (possibly) the site of La Capilla to the south of Tacar. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth.

TAC-001: Very large boulder with six decorated panels. A: Incised petroglyphs, including randomly arranged lines, but also a quadruped and a possible snake. B: Two large concentric rings with central dot; rectangular motif; a three-digit?; all deeply and crudely hacked. C: Incised lines; pecked snake? D: Incised lines (at least three quadrupeds). E: Several crudely hacked abstract motifs (one superimposed by an Early Christian Altar-Cross) and one quadruped; a snake (?) comprising three parallel lines. F: Four pecked concentric ring motifs.

TAC-002: Large (partially flaked-off) boulder (Figure 6) with many incised lines; one incised (unfinished) feline petroglyph. Some pecked grooves (including an anthropomorphic head?).

Figure 6A: Location of some of the decorated boulders at Tacar. B: Detail of Panel TAC-002. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-003: Pecked motifs, partially covered by sand.

TAC-004: Small boulder with four panels (Figure 7). A: Pecked ring with appendages. Two fully pecked quadrupeds and anthropomorph. Partially buried by sand. B: Two confronting Majes “Spitters”. C:  Five small Majes “Dancers” (much weathered); One outlined (MRAS) quadruped and one fully pecked quadruped; dots. Partially buried by sand. D: Outlined quadruped.

Figure 7: Boulder TAC-004. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-005: Three outlined (MRAS) quadrupeds; one fully pecked quadruped. Two fully pecked “lizard-anthropomorphs”.

TAC-006: Large Boulder with two panels. A:  Chaos of petroglyphs (Figure 8). One large snake-like creature with possibly a rayed head. One large, fully pecked anthropomorph. One thinly engraved “lizard-anthropomorph”. Large, complex triangular fan-shaped motif and a smaller example. Very small, fully pecked quadruped. B: Small (damaged) panel with two fully pecked anthropomorphs

Figure 8: Panel TAC-006A. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-007: Boulder or outcrop with three panels. A: Complex, incised grid pattern (damaged). Large pecked (abraded?) “lizard-anthropomorph”. B: Crudely hacked, serpentine groove. Crudely pecked, outlined quadruped. Thinly incised V-pattern. C: Row of four or five possible anthropomorphs (pecked).

TAC-008: Large pattern of pecked lines. Partially buried by sand.

TAC-009: Incised pattern, superimposed by pecked motifs. Partially buried by sand.

TAC-010: Boulder or outcrop with two panels. A: Ring with serpentine groove. Two ringmarks and some grooves. Ringmark enclosing a cross and four dots. Possible anthropomorph with tumi-shaped head?  B: Cupule with ring surrounded by a ring of dots, in turn surrounded by a second pecked ring.

TAC-011 (Figure 9): Long outcrop ridge with several panels that are characterised by a mixture of (crudely) pecked motifs and many incised lines. Only a few outstanding features will be mentioned here. A: Incised square pattern. B: Parallel, incised zigzag lines. Superimpositions by crudely hacked grooves (quadrupeds?). C: Curvilinear pattern. D: Pecked quadrupeds. E: Long pecked serpentine groove. Small pecked quadruped. Pecked “lizard-anthropomorph. F: Incised motif (looking like a “Trophy” Head). G: Quadruped(s?). H: Lines only.

Figure 9: Panels TAC-011A and B. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-012: Outcrop with at least one (unfinished?) “lizard-anthropomorph”.

TAC-013 (Figure 10A): A: Small, flaked panel with large fully pecked quadruped; Greek-Style meandering line; long serpentine line; smaller, roughly hacked quadruped; match-stick “lizard-anthropomorph”. B: Large, much fragmented and flaked panel with anthropomorph with small outlined, rectangular head; two fully pecked, “kissing” quadrupeds; pecked anthropomorph and (inverted?) pecked bird (?); smaller; anthropomorph; row of three anthropomorphs (the middle one with outlined head); group of four anthropomorphs (one with outlined, circular head) surrounding an outlined quadruped (?); some incised lines.

Figure 10A: Panels TAC-013A and B. B: Panel TAC-019. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-014: A: Circular motifs; many random lines; incised (Christian?) cross; one outlined and one fully pecked quadruped (?); two V-shaped motifs (vulvas?). B: Petroglyphs partially buried by sand.

TAC-015: Damaged boulder with (cut-off) crudely pecked lines-pattern; two parallel, incised lines.

TAC-016: Eight pecked dots and several pecked areas.

TAC-017: Very indistinct petroglyphs. Recent vandalism.

TAC-018: A: Rough, vertical surface with some deeply carved (abstract?) motifs. B: Fractured, sloping panel with two circular motifs and other lines

TAC-019: Fractured and damaged boulder with at least two anthropomorphic figures both with flexed and drooping arms (no digits), one with rectangular, outlined head, the other with circular outlined head, both with two dots for eyes (Figure 10B). Two grooves may represent the legs of a third anthropomorph on a fragment that may have been removed (stolen?).

TAC-020: Outcrop panel, high up the escarpment, much eroded. Near the upper edge: a snake-like petroglyph (horizontally arranged); below the “snake” are at least four (perhaps five) fully pecked, rather large “lizard-anthropomorphs” and one fully pecked quadruped. Below the quadruped is a very indistinct biomorphic (?) petroglyph.

TAC-021: A short distance north of TAC-020 is another (smaller) outcrop panel also very near the top of the cliff with at least one “lizard-anthropomorph”.

TAC-022: (see Figure 12B) A: Smooth, vertical panel with numerous pecked dots arranged in rows, several pecked lines and at least three “lizard-anthropomorphs” (manufactured using different styles of pecking or hacking). Rough part on top of the outcrop: some deeply carved petroglyphs. B: At least one simple “lizard-anthropomorph”.

TAC-023: Rough, vertical (SE facing) panel with a confusion of much weathered and (wind)-eroded and closely packed, pecked petroglyphs. It is very hard to distinguish individual motifs.

TAC-024: Outcrop panel (Figure 11), part of a large, SE facing wall. One large and one very small quadruped, both fully pecked. Solar symbol. Some grooves. More petroglyphs possibly covered by sand.

Figure 11: Location of Panels TAC-023 to 030 (025 is just to the right of 024). Detail of Panel TAC-024. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-025: Panel on the same outcrop wall. Large, crudely executed, fully pecked quadruped. Large, fully pecked “lizard-anthropomorph”. Much weathered.

TAC-026: Panels TAC-026 to TAC-032 (see Figure 14) are all part of a much fragmented outcrop escarpment (discussed from north to south). Panel TAC-026 (Figure 12A): Much weathered panel (facing NW towards Panel TAC-023) with a similar chaos of pecked dots, grooves and possibly two circular motifs. It is very hard to distinguish individual motifs.

TAC-027: Around the corner of Panel TAC-026 is NE facing Panel TAC-027. Dominating is a large set of three concentric rings with central dot. Solar motif; an outlined and a fully pecked quadruped “kissing”; fully pecked quadruped; snake (?) with dots; abstract motifs, one with rows of dots.

TAC-028: Two possible snake petroglyphs, one with internal dots.

Figure 12A: Panel TAC-026. B: Panels TAC-022A and B. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-029: Five dots. One “lizard-anthropomorph”. Part of a possibly unfinished snake.

TAC-030: Important panel with several unambiguous MRAS zoomorphs (Figure 13). Pecked snake with internal dots. Pecked quadruped, front part outlined and decorated – back has been obliterated; it has a feather-like element emerging from the head, reminding us of the feathered-biomorphs at Toro Muerto  (Van Hoek 2021a). Incised feline, bird, quadruped and snake. Pecked quadruped.

Figure 13: Panel TAC-030. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-031: Figure 14: Pecked motifs. Three fully pecked “lizard-anthropomorphs”, one superimposing a pecked snake with dots and a quadruped. Six quadrupeds (outlined and fully pecked). Serpentine groove. Dot surrounded by a few dots.

Figure 14: Location of Panels TAC-026 to 032. Panel TAC-031. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-032: Group of dots. One “lizard-anthropomorph”. Abstract motifs.

TAC-033: Exfoliated boulder very near the house at Tacar. A: Panel with one or two faintly pecked quadrupeds and one outlined example. B (Figure 15): Straight pecked line topped by an outlined (damaged) extension from which five or six incised, parallel lines emerge, the whole surrounded by dots and a serpentine groove at each side. This configuration may be compared with similar-looking examples in the Majes Valley, especially at Toro Muerto. Faint outlined quadruped and possible snake.

Figure 15: Panel TAC-033B. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

TAC-034: A: Pecked motifs; hard to distinguish. B: Pecked motifs; hard to distinguish.

TAC-035: Exfoliated boulder (near Boulder TAC-033). A: Serpentine groove. Possible quadruped. Four small groove-patterns. B: Fully pecked quadruped with long neck and large rectangular body.

TAC-036?: On the internet I found a photograph showing a decorated panel that just possibly is located at Tacar. It features a snake-like petroglyphs of four parallel lines, an outlined quadruped and some other indistinct markings.



When compared with the impressive rock art in the Majes Valley (especially at Toro Muerto and Alto de Pitis) and in the Sihuas Valley (Quilcapampa), the imagery in this stretch of the Vítor Valley is rather modest, also compared with the imagery found at La Caldera and Mollebaya Chico and Grande, all located further upstream, along the Río Chili (Vítor drainage).

Yet, the rock art of this stretch of the valley of the Río Vítor is most important when it comes to establishing the extent of the diffusion of rock art imagery from the Central Majes Valley, the cradle of the MRAS. In this respect Tacar even plays a crucial role, although there are more sites in Vítor that offer evidence of diffusion of specific MRAS images from the Majes Valley.

Somewhere along the Río Vítor are two most interesting petroglyph panels (boulders?) that have been reported to me by Rodolfo Talavera Zúñiga of Viraco in 2009. The caption of each of his photographs read: Huachipa – Hacienda la Cantera, which may imply that the two panels could be located anywhere between or at Huachipa and/or La Cantera. Unfortunately I was unable to locate those (buried?) panels at La Cantera, or at Tacar. Whatever their location, the petroglyphs on these two boulders unquestionably link the Vítor Valley with the Majes Valley. One panel (Van Hoek 2013: Fig. 53) clearly shows a group of four Majes “Spitters”, all with (zigzag) “tears” from the eyes, while two centrally positioned Majes “Spitters” are in the typical “confronting” (fighting?) position. Such confronting scenes are frequently found at Toro Muerto in Majes as well. The panel is crisscrossed by straight incised grooves, which – tellingly – also represent a distinctive feature of several petroglyph panels at Tacar.

The other panel (Van Hoek 2013: Fig. 54) is even more intriguing. It shows an outlined zoomorph with some dots that seems to be linked via the lines of its head to a group of lines that may well form a type of bird-design that to my knowledge is – so far – only found at Toro Muerto. The three parallel grooves at the top of the “bird” represent the tail, while the head is pointing down. This type of bird petroglyph is often found in a rotated position at Toro Muerto as well (and may even have been taken for a ‘fish’ petroglyph). A comparable “bird” petroglyph is found on Panel TAC-030 at Tacar (see Figure 13).

However, most remarkable on this second panel “at Huachipa” is the presence of a fully pecked anthropomorphic figure with an outlined head having three appendages. Three (natural?) dots form the mouth and eyes and although the typical Majes “tears” seem to be lacking, it has the distinctive posture of the Majes “Dancer”.

Unfortunately I could not locate these two interesting panels when surveying the Vítor Valley, but I have found other rock art panels that modestly but definitely confirm the link with the Majes Valley. These panels are found at the extensive rock art site of Tacar and on at least one other panel “at Huachipa”. Especially Panel TAC-030 at Tacar (see Figure 13) has several (dotted) zoomorphic figures that are much like examples at Alto de Pitis in the Majes Valley, while the elongated bird image (also occurring “at Huachipa”; (Van Hoek 2013: Fig. 54) is also found at Toro Muerto in Majes (Van Hoek 2013: Fig. 55). Interestingly, some frontally depicted bird petroglyphs at Palca seem to confirm a relationship with the bird imagery in the valley of the Río Chili (the upstream continuation of the Río Vítor and its tributaries), for instance the impressive rock art site of Culebrillas and at Mollebaya Grande. However, at Palca also typical Majes-related imagery has been recorded, thus confirming that the Vítor-Chili valleys form a transition zone.

But most convincing is the imagery on Boulder TAC-004. This small, but unfortunately damaged boulder has four decorated panels. Panel TAC-004B has two outlined figures representing two confronting Majes “Spitters” (see Figure 7) that are almost identical to the “Spitters” reported “at Huachipa – Hacienda la Cantera”. Although Majes “Spitters” hardly ever have been drawn in full outline, these two outlined zoomorphs positively link Tacar with the Majes Valley. Panel TAC-004C is even more exceptional. It not only has a large (Majes-style) dotted zoomorph, but also a group of at least five undeniable Majes “Dancer” figures (see Figure 7). Possibly three dancers have one eye; two of which definitely feature the “tear” element. Thus, Tacar is the only rock art site outside the Central Majes Valley where typical MRAS-elements are found. Only three types of typical Majes bird petroglyphs (the Two-Digit-Claw Bird, the Three-Digit-Claw Bird and the “Rectangular Bird”) have not been seen by me at any rock art site in the Vítor Valley.

However, not having seen something in Vítor myself does not mean that it is absent. This is demonstrated by a rock art panel “at Berenguela” (a site in Vítor that I did not visit) that undoubtedly features a collection of Majes-related petroglyphs, including a frontally depicted dotted Condor (its head laterally depicted, though) with two outspread wings and one Three-Digit-Claw leg, as well as a fully laterally depicted dotted Three-Digit-Claw Bird. Both birds have a long “tear from the eye”. Also the “tear” element is typical for MRAS biomorphs. At least two other boulders – recorded “somewhere in Vítor” – feature petroglyphs of the Three-Digit-Claw Bird. On the “Berenguela Panel” there are also several outlined, dotted quadrupeds that are also reminiscent of MRAS petroglyphs.

Also important on the “Berenguela Panel” however, is the match-stick figure of a small anthropomorph that – because of its specific pose and its two possible appendages from the otherwise insignificant head – just possibly could be related to the Majes “Dancer”. Additionally, on a large outcrop panel “at Ophelan” is an enormous concentration of petroglyphs, including several large, fully pecked quadrupeds joined to anthropomorphic figures (camelids-on-leash?), as well as some anthropomorphic figures that – again just possibly – could be related to the Majes “Dancer”.

There is another anthropomorphic figure at Tacar that may have a link with the Majes Valley, or rather, with an art-form that has a relationship with a specific natural feature of enormous regional and cultural importance. This impressive and daunting natural landmark is observable from certain spots in Majes, but especially from Alto de Pitis. The petroglyphs in question involve a number of rare, but distinctive images depicting frontally portrayed anthropomorphs. Examples are found on Boulders TAC-013 (see Figure 10A) and TAC-019 (see Figure 10B). They are characterised by drooping (and flexed) arms and an oval (or sometimes hammerhead-shaped) outlined head that is characterised by two “staring eyes” (no other facial features have been depicted). Those figures may be related to the anthropomorphic figures at La Pampilla, which is located only 970 m to the SSW of Tacar (see Figure 2). However, those “staring” figures also resemble the anthropomorphic paintings on the Votive Stones that are found on the southern slopes of Apu Coropuna, the most Sacred Mountain of this part of the Andes, about 130 km to the NW of Tacar. Those Votive Stones (Faron-Bartels 2011a; 2011b) and its imagery may convey a spiritual connection with Apu Coropuna. This specific, ritual connection of (rock) art and Apus may also explain (most of?)  the rock art in the Vítor drainage and all other drainages. The next questions now are: what are Apus and how are they linked with rock art sites?

In several publications I have demonstrated that much (if not most) of the rock art in the MRAS-Sphere is intimately linked with one or more of the Sacred Mountains of Arequipa; the impressive volcanoes that are called Apus (Lords) by ancient Andean peoples. The most important Sacred Mountains in our area are Apu Misti and its neighbour Apu Chachani, and Apu Ampato and Apu Coropuna. What we noticed when surveying Tacar and La Cantera and when locating other rock art sites in Vítor, is that the major concentrations of rock art are found rather high up the steep, sandy slopes, thus being difficult of access. Indeed, many decorated boulders are found rather high up on the steep slopes (often ignoring suitable boulders lower down the slope). This selection may have had a special reason.

It is now significant that from the boulders at Tacar that are located higher up the slope the summits of  Apu Misti and its neighbour Apu Chachani are visible across the valley. This also seems to be the case at several other sites in Vítor (see Figure 3), but possibly not all (I have not checked this in the field). For instance, Apu Ampato might have been visible from some sites on the east bank, when looking NW. Moreover, at Tacar a procession of decorated boulders at the lower level (from where the Apus Chachani and – to a lesser extent – Misti are also perceptible) seems to guide the visitor up to the higher ground, where the Apus are even better visible. Unfortunately it is not known to me whether the icon of the “Carcancha” has been manufactured at any of the sites in this stretch of the Vítor Valley, as at many other sites in Arequipa (also at sites further upstream in the Vítor drainage) the “Carcancha” icon offers the most decisive connection between rock art sites and the Apus.

This definitely is the case at the rock art site of La Caldera (also in the Vítor drainage) with unambiguous alignments on Apu Chachani and especially on its neighbour Apu Misti (Van Hoek 2022a) and at Mollebaya Chico (located immediately north of the Río Chili-Vítor), which was intentionally selected because of its uninterrupted view of Apu Misti (Van Hoek 2022b). Other rock art sites with a view of one or more of the Apus are San Antonio, Curlaca and Gayalopo in the Yarabamba Valley; from San Antonio even five Apus are visible (Van Hoek 2017). Most important in this respect is Alto de Pitis in Majes with a plethora of “Carcancha” petroglyphs and its uninterrupted views of Apu Coropuna (Van Hoek 2013). Earlier I also demonstrated that it was not “mandatory” for an Apu to be visible in order to explain the presence of rock art. The “Carcancha” imagery established the connection with the physically invisible Apu. This is the case for instance at Quebrada Pampa Blanca in Majes (Van Hoek 2020), Quilcapampa in Sihuas (Van Hoek 2021b) and Culebrillas in the Vítor drainage (Van Hoek 2013: 110; Fig. 98); all sites with two or more “Carcanchas”. The fact that – so far – “Carcancha” images are absent in this stretch of the Vítor Valley, does not mean that the rock art would not have been created because of the spiritual connection with the Apus Chachani and Misti. I am convinced about the relationship between rock art and Apus, also in this part of the Andes.


¡ Los Apus nos llaman !

¡ Los Petroglifos Siguen el Llamado del Apu !



As ever I am indebted to my wife Elles for her much appreciated assistance while surveying the rock art sites of Tacar and La Cantera and for her ongoing support at home.



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

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Van Hoek, M. 2018. Formative Period Rock Art in Arequipa, Peru. An up-dated analysis of the rock art from Caravelí to Vítor. Book only available at ResearchGate.

Van Hoek M. 2020. New “Carcancha” Petroglyphs in Arequipa, Peru. Illustrating the “Road to Coropuna”. In: TRACCEOnline Rock Art Bulletin, Italy.

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Van Hoek, M. 2022b. Why Selecting Mollebaya Chico for Rock Art Production? In: TRACCE – Online Rock Art Bulletin, Italy. Available at ResearchGate as PDF.

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