The Case of Boulder AP1-001, Alto de Pitis, Peru.

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This paper investigates one enormous boulder with numerous petroglyphs at Alto de Pitis, a major rock art site in the Majes Valley of southern Peru. Two types of petroglyphs on this boulder are being described in more detail and discussed within the context of the rock art of the Majes Valley.

By Maarten van Hoek (Revised September 2023)




The Case of Boulder AP1-001, Alto de Pitis

Majes Valley, Southern Peru


Revised September 2023


Maarten van Hoek



Alto de Pitis is a very important rock art site in the Majes Valley of southern Peru. Yet it is almost unknown, especially when compared with its “legendary” neighbour, Toro Muerto, which is located on the other side of the valley, about 7 km NW of Alto de Pitis (Figure 1). Because “celebrated” Toro Muerto is signposted along the road from Arequipa and marketed online, hardly anybody visits Alto de Pitis, although all visitors to Toro Muerto (unknowingly) cross the site of Alto de Pitis. Boulder AP2-001 (see Figure 33) is even only 25 m north of the Arequipa – Toro Muerto highway (the construction of which destroyed part of the rock art site).

Figure 1: Location of Alto de Pitis in the Central Majes Valley, southern Peru. Map © by Maarten van Hoek, based on the map © by OpenStreetMap – Contributors.

Click on any illustration to see an enlargement.

Open the enlargement in a new window to see details even better.


The whole complex of Alto de Pitis measures about 4000 m from south to north by 700 m maximum from west to east. During several surveys my wife Elles and I documented over 400 boulders with petroglyphs at Alto de Pitis, many of which are unique, not only for Alto de Pitis, the Majes Valley and Arequipa, but also for the whole of the Desert Andes, the extremely dry desert area west of the High Andes. This study focusses on one specific boulder at Alto de Pitis, Boulder AP1-001, an enormous block of stone that – despite its size – is invisible from the road. Some specific images on Boulder AP1-001 will be discussed in a wider context.


Boulder AP1-001 – Location

Based on our surveys, I have divided the rock art site of Alto de Pitis into four Sectors, called AP1 to AP4 (from south to north). Boulder AP1-001 is located at the extreme southern part of Sector AP1 (at 773089.25 m E and 8198648.63 m S in Google Earth 2022). The huge boulder is 200 m SW of the junction of the entrance track and the main road (at 482 m), but cannot be seen because the view is blocked by the ridge at Sector AP1 (roughly at 480 m). About 150 m due west of the boulder there is the steep cliff of the east bank of the valley. At that point the valley floor is at 390 m, while the river – further west – is at 372 m.

Boulder AP1-001 is found on a rather steep, SSW inclining, sandy slope (Figure 2) at an altitude of 462 m, thus about 72 m above the valley floor. The boulder is visible (if you know where to look) from a newly discovered rock art site at Punta Colorada on the west bank (one panel featuring the petroglyph of a “Trophy” Head). The site of Alto de Pitis (but not the boulder) is also visible from Toro Muerto (Figure 3), again if you know where to look, which is sometimes a problem, even for an academic (bio-)archaeologist, like Prof. Beth Scaffidi demonstrated in her dissertation (2018: Fig. 5.2). She claims to have visited Alto de Pitis and also pretends to know where Alto de Pitis is located, while she is completely wrong in locating Alto de Pitis in her dissertation (see Van Hoek 2023a: Appendix Figure).

Figure 2: Location of Boulder AP1-001, looking south. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 3: Location of Alto de Pitis from Toro Muerto and approximated location of Boulder AP1-001 (marked by a star), looking SE across the Central Majes valley. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

An extremely important aspect of the location of Boulder AP1-001 (and of many, many other boulders at Alto de Pitis) is the fact that – despite the rather low altitude of the site, with views to the north being blocked by the ridge in this Sector – Apu Coropuna is still visible from the boulder (Figure 4). Nevado Coropuna – the highest volcano in this area (for the location see Figure 1) – is revered as one of the most Sacred Mountains (Apus) of southern Peru. I have convincingly demonstrated  (Van Hoek 2013) that especially Alto de Pitis houses a plethora of specific life-death related petroglyphs (mainly “Carcanchas”; skeleton-anthropomorphic figures and some Mummy Bundles). “Carcanchas” symbolise the invisible road along which the deceased souls travelled to Apu Coropuna, where – on the snow-clad top of the mountain – their deities and ancestors reside(d). Importantly, Alto de Pitis is the only rock art site in the valley with wide views towards Apu Coropuna (Van Hoek 2013: Fig. 146), which is located about 80 km to the NNW (Figure 5). Also Boulder AP1-001 has at least one important life-death related petroglyph (on Panel AP1-001D), but no “Carcancha” images.

Figure 4: Boulder AP1001, looking NNW towards Apu Coropuna. TM means Toro Muerto and Uraca indicates the approximated location of an ancient burial site. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 5: Cross section (with altitudes and scale [2.5 km] only valid for the section) of the Majes Valley and the view across the valley towards Apu Coropuna. The colour green marks the visibility of the Apu from Alto de Pitis (1) (the location of Boulder AP1-001 roughly indicated by a star-symbol). The colour red means that from Toro Muerto (2) the Apu is not visible. RS means Red Spot. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth.


Boulder AP1-001 – History

About a decade ago I was the first to find out that the rock art site of Alto de Pitis was first recorded by Hiram Bingham as early as 1911 (Van Hoek 2013), but he surveyed only the more northerly Sector of AP3. It is unknown to me who exactly first recorded Boulder AP1-001, but the earliest graphic record that I could find concerns a drawing of one of the panels of AP1-001 (made in 1965 or perhaps in 1953?) by Hans Dietrich Disselhoff and published by him in 1971 (Abb. 17). Unfortunately Disselhoff made two mistakes regarding his drawing (which will be discussed in more detail further on).

Another, well-known rock art researcher, Eloy Linares Málaga, the “discoverer” of Toro Muerto, called Sector AP1 “Sarcas” or “Hacienda Las Palmas” and mentioned the year of 1951 as the time of discovery (Linares Málaga 1973-2013: 634). Linares Málaga published a drawing of Panel AP1-001A (Linares Málaga 1973-2013: Fig. 45; Figure 6A), but his caption incorrectly claims that the boulder is one of the “Petroglifos de ‘Quilcapampa La Antigua’, Santa Isabel de Sihuas. Arequipa.”, a rock art site about 40 km further east. Moreover, many of the fine details of his drawing are inaccurate and even incorrect (Figure 6B).

Figure 6A: Boulder AP1-001 (showing Panels A and F) as illustrated by Linares Málaga (1973-2013: Fig. 45). B: Drawing of the top end of Panel A, showing the stripes superimposing an earlier feline petroglyph. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek.

Many years after the recording of Sector AP1, the well-known Cuban rock art researcher Núñez Jiménez systematically surveyed Sector AP1 (also labelled “Sarcas” by Núñez Jiménez 1986: 311 – 319). Unfortunately his survey yielded a confusing mixture of illustrations regarding Boulder AP1-001. I sorted out the chaos and found out the following. Panel AP1-001A is illustrated as his Piedra 24 (1986: Figs 2057, 2058 and 2059) and is almost similar to the drawing by Linares Málaga. Panel AP1-001B (with at least three sub-panels) is missing. Panel AP1-001C is incompletely and incorrectly drawn, moreover as if it is part of Panel AP1-001D and 001E and thus misleadingly illustrated as one panel (1986: Fig. 2061). Panel AP1-001E is incorrectly drawn by Núñez Jiménez and, moreover, is missing the most important (lower) part. Furthermore, it is listed as his Piedra 26, together with Panel AP1-001F (1986: Fig.  2060). Confusingly Panel AP1-001F (also his Piedra 26) is incorrectly drawn in his Fig. 2060 (Figure 7B), while Panel AP1-001F is much better illustrated in his Fig. 2043 (Figure 7A), but is confusingly listed in his caption as a different boulder (Piedra 8). Concluding, Boulder AP1-001 is listed by Núñez Jiménez as three different boulders. I hope that you are still with me.

Figure 7: Panel AP1-001F. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek, after Núñez Jiménez (1986).

In 2009 French archaeologist Jean Guffroy published a book about rock art in Peru, in which he also dedicated a section on the rock art “at Mesana” (2009: 212 – 220), but in fact he only visited a very small part of Sectors AP1 (Sarcas)  and AP2 (Pitis), both parts easily accessible from the main road, but he did not see Boulder AP1-001. For that reason his description of the rock art at Alto de Pitis is most unsatisfactory and sometimes even incorrect (especially when he states (Guffroy 2009: 214) that there are no petroglyphs of Majes “Dancers” at the site (see my analysis of the Majes “Dancer” in Van Hoek 2022b).

Finally, also my wife and I surveyed Alto de Pitis several times and – because of the plethora of “Carcancha” petroglyphs – I published a book describing the site, focussing on those intriguing “Carcancha” images (Van Hoek 2013). Altogether we recorded more than 400 decorated boulders, but I am certain that we missed (some?) boulders and/or panels. Indeed, also on Boulder AP1-001 there may be small panels with (lesser and/or weathered) petroglyphs (for instance on the top, or in the shade) that escaped us during our surveys at Alto de Pitis. Therefore, only the six major panels (AP1-001A to 001F) will now be reviewed, yet not discussing each petroglyph in detail, but focussing on specific images and/or especially on images that are anomalous within the context of the Majes Rock Art Style (MRAS), thus mainly within the context of the rock art of the Central Majes Valley. Only a in a few instances scales are available. The directions into which the panels are facing are only approximated by me.


Panel 1A – The Discarded Feline

Panel 1A is the main panel and the most photographed, also because it is the first panel one will see when approaching from the north (from the main road). It has a much sloping, SE facing, very smooth surface that is almost completely covered with numerous petroglyphs (Figure 8). There are many abstract designs and simple markings, as well as at least two anthropomorphic figures (yet no Majes “Dancers” are present on this panel!) and a few zoomorphic petroglyphs. Most interesting is an unambiguous example of superimposition, visible at the top of the panel. Two large stripes in an unusual horizontal position have (deliberately!?) been superimposed upon the legs/feet of a large quadruped, a snake and (at the extreme left) upon a feline (see Figure 6B). Linares Málaga does draw the superimposition rather inaccurately (see Figure 6A), but it is better visible in Núñez Jiménez’ drawing (1986: Fig. 2057).

Figure 8: Panel AP1-001A at Alto de Pitis. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.


Panel 1B – The Weathered Images

Walking around the huge boulder anti-clockwise one can observe the NNE facing, multifaceted Panel 1B. It is much weathered and the petroglyphs are not that clear. There are some small and a possibly one larger zoomorph and at least two petroglyphs of Majes “Dancers”, both of which seem to hold a small, linear object in the left hand (Figure 9). Boulder AP1-001 is not the most southerly stone with images of the Majes “Dancer” in the Majes Valley (so far), because a short distance further SSW is Boulder AP1-005 with two crudely executed examples. It is nonetheless remarkable how few petroglyphs of Majes “Dancers” have been recorded at Sector AP1.

Figure 9: Panel AP1-001B at Alto de Pitis. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.


Panel 1C – The Large Camelid

The edge between Panel 1B and Panel 1C is rather indistinct. Regarding WSW facing Panel 1C Núñez Jiménez only (incorrectly) draws the large petroglyph of a quadruped (most likely a camelid) (Figure 10: Inset) and omits two smaller quadrupeds below the large animal. Above the large animal are at least two anthropomorphic figures, while at least two more zoomorphic petroglyphs are also lacking (Figure 10).


Panel 1D – The Mummy Bundle

The next panel is SW facing and bears the very large petroglyph of what I consider to represent a Mummy Bundle (Figure 10). It is a long, vertically arranged petroglyph, intricately decorated with squares (some with central dot), serpentine lines, dots and (on the left side) a row of short, diagonal lines. On the upper left side is also a protuberance of lines, while above the Mummy Bundle there is a small zoomorphic figure. Núñez Jiménez draws the small circle on the very top of the Mummy Bundle as if it has three dots indicating eyes and a mouth, but these features could not be recognised by us anymore (weathered off or bad lightning?).

Figure 10: Panels AP1-001B3, C and D at Alto de Pitis. Photographs and drawing (Inset: after Núñez Jiménez 1986: Fig. 2061) © by Maarten van Hoek.


Panel 1E – The “Hourglass” Petroglyphs

Panel AP1-001E is south facing and has a large number of interesting petroglyphs. Remarkably, Núñez Jiménez only illustrates the upper half of the panel (1986: Fig. 2060), while the lower part bears the most interesting images. To me it seems impossible that at the time of Núñez Jiménez’ visit this lower part was covered by sediments, as this part is about one metre high and the ground surface in front of the panel slopes away from the panel (which also faces strong winds from the south; the Majes Valley acting as a funnel [see Figure 2]). The upper part has some zoomorphic images and a curiously shaped anthropomorphic figure (possibly a Majes “Dancer”) that has a row of dots parallel to its curved back, an enigmatic feature that is repeated sometimes in MRAS (Van Hoek 2019; see also Van Hoek 2022b).

The lower half has only three petroglyphs. There is one large “circle” that is completely filled with a large number of crudely hacked dots. To the left are two remarkable petroglyphs, both shaped in the form of an hourglass. The larger example (1 in Figure 11) is estimated by me to be 70 cm in height, while the smaller measures 45 cm. Both are outlined and are filled with crudely hacked dots, although the lower part of the smaller example has been fully pecked. Finally, on top of the smaller one sits a small dot (a head?).

Figure 11: Panel AP1-001E at Alto de Pitis. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.


Panel 1F – The “Vegetal” Petroglyph

The final, SSE facing panel has been illustrated twice by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2043 and – deformed and incomplete – Fig. 2060; see Figure 7). The panel bears the petroglyph of a head (with eyes, mouth and – exceptional for MRAS – a nose) on a short, thick stick (a neck?), some zoomorphic petroglyphs (including a frog or a lizard), a horizontally arranged serpentine line, some indeterminable patterns and – the largest image – a possibly anthropomorphic (?) figure with (?) a headdress (Figure 12A). If indeed it is an anthropomorph, then it seems to have a headdress and a large phallus (ending in three short lines). However, it may well represent something completely different; a plant-anthropomorph perhaps? This large figure is surrounded/filled with small dots and includes one of the simple match-stick zoomorphs.

Figure 12: Panel AP1-001F. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek; drawing based on Disselhoff (1971: Abb. 17).

Unfortunately, a drawing of this large petroglyph was published by Disselhoff (1971: 40; Abb. 17) in an incorrect inverted position (Figure 12B) and possibly for that reason was interpreted by him as a plant in the text and in the caption: “Baum und Stern. Ritz und Schabzeichnung auf Tuff. Toro Muerto, Majes-Tal. (my emphases)”. Moreover, it was incorrectly positioned at Toro Muerto. His interpretation brings me to discuss the possibility of plants having been depicted in the rock art of the Central Majes Valley (mainly focussing at the rock art sites of Toro Muerto and Alto de Pitis).



Plant Petroglyphs in MRAS

To start with, petroglyphs of plants are extremely rare in MRAS and – moreover – if petroglyphs are looking like plants, they are always questionable (like the example on Panel AP1-001F at Alto de Pitis). Yet, Disselhoff interprets another petroglyph (on Boulder TM-Be-053 at Toro Muerto) also as a plant “Baum mit Wurzelen. Ritz und Schabzeichnung auf Tuff. Toro Muerto, Majes-Tal.” (1971: Abb. 18; my emphases). His photo and the later drawing by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2681) correctly depict the image, but I question if their interpretations are correct. To me the petroglyph on Boulder TM-Be-053 seems to represent a stripe that superimposes earlier patterns and I thus doubt his vegetal interpretation (which is possibly based on our subjective, western mind) (Figure 13). Another, slightly more convincing example (yet still debateable) of a plant-anthropomorph has been recorded on Panel TM-Bs-004A (Figure 14). Two petroglyphs on Panel TM-Dx-010A are unusual and just possibly might depict cacti (Figure 15), while also two other petroglyphs (on Panels TM-Be-105 and TM-Nw-036) might depict or symbolise plants (cacti?), but again we will probably never know for sure. More comparable (but still questionable) “plant” petroglyphs have been recorded by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Figs 2316 and 2567).

Figure 13: Boulder TM-Be-053 at Toro Muerto. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek; drawing after Núñez Jiménez 1986 (Fig. 2681).

Figure 14: Panel TM-Bs-004A at Toro Muerto. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek; drawing after Núñez Jiménez 1986 (Fig. 2682).

Figure 15: Panel TM-Dx-010A at Toro Muerto. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

Also at Alto de Pitis petroglyphs that look like plants are extremely rare and – again – questionable. The “most convincing” examples are found on Boulder AP3-130 (Figure 16) and on Panel AP3-207A (Figure 17). Both examples may depict corn or perhaps sugar cane. However, in both cases the purported plant images have their “leaves” oriented diagonally downwards, whereas upwards would be more logical. Having said that, it is even possible that the two petroglyphs on Boulder AP3-130 depict the bones of fish (which would make them even more exceptional), while the plant-like petroglyphs on Panel AP3-207A may even depict myriapods.

Also at other sites in the MRAS-Sphere petroglyphs that might depict plants have been reported, for instance at Quilcapampa in the Sihuas Valley, east of Majes (Berquist et al. 2021). A category of specific petroglyphs at Quilcapampa is the “Bilobed Design”, which is also categorised as the “Line-and-Node” petroglyph by Berquist et al. (2021: Fig, 3.15; 120), but remarkably also as a “Phytomorph” (2021: Fig. 3.6). Yet, Berquist et al. do not explain why they alternatively categorise this pattern as a phytomorph. Moreover, I question very much whether the “Bilobed Design” depicts or symbolises a plant (read more about the “Bilobed Design” in Van Hoek 2021a: 24 – 32).

Yet, there may be some petroglyphs at Quilcapampa that may depict or symbolise plants (for instance on Panels B8 and B13 at Section B of Sector 7 – see Van Hoek 2021a: Figs 15 and 14B; blue arrows). Also at another (undisclosed) petroglyph site on the east bank of the Sihuas Valley a possible phytomorphic petroglyph has been recorded. In all cases the Sihuas “plant” petroglyphs have their “leaves” pointing diagonally upwards, which may augment their labelling as plants.

Figure 16: Boulder AP3-130 at Alto de Pitis. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 17: Boulder AP3-207A at Alto de Pitis (note the instances of vandalism at this remote boulder). Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

West of Majes there are two rock art sites in the Manga Valley that have recently been described by me (Van Hoek 2022c). One site – Cuesta de la Pachana – is located on an ancient track from Manga to Majes. Of interest in this small site is Panel CUP-005B: (Tacca Quispe 2008: Fotos 43 and 45). On an almost horizontal, yet still NE facing surface is one large, unusual biomorphic (?) image with an outlined “body” from which seven long grooves emerge (an octopus?; although suggested by Tacca Quispe to depict a water-spring). Another, small complex figure (25 cm in length) may also represent a biomorph (a cactus?; though tentatively suggested by Tacca Quispe to represent a tree or a religious symbol) (Van Hoek 2022c: Fig. 9B). Other possible “plant” petroglyphs have been recorded at a rock art site in the Caravelí Valley (see Van Hoek 2022d: Figs 7 and 26A). Again, all the examples mentioned in this section show the ambiguity of the label “plant” petroglyph. In most cases we simply have no clue.


The “Hourglass” in MRAS

The second (abstract-looking) pattern that I want to discuss is the “Hourglass” motif. It is characterised by two triangles (one inverted) that are joined at their apexes, thus forming an hourglass shape. The two examples on Panel AP1-001F are extremely large compared with all other examples known in the area. As far as I know the two examples on Panel AP1-001F are the only ones at Alto de Pitis, but at Toro Muerto several more examples have been recorded by us and other investigators. There are also a few petroglyphs in the Central Majes Valley that might be related to the “Hourglass” motif, like the example on Boulder TM-Bc-001, which – according to Núñez Jiménez – shows a possible “Hourglass” motif plus two dots and two serpentine grooves, all enclosed by a square (1986: Fig. 2500). I have seen this boulder several times, but either it was more weathered or the lighting was not optimal, making it difficult to discern the layout. Another possible, fully pecked example has been illustrated by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2269), but I have not seen this panel myself. Therefore, I could not confirm the correctness of the drawings by Núñez Jiménez (see Van Hoek 2011).

In this study (a minimum of) fourteen “hourglass” petroglyphs (on twelve panels; all found at Toro Muerto) – interestingly showing a rather large variety – will now briefly and apparently randomly be described. Please keep in mind that more (yet undiscovered) examples may exist in this valley (or elsewhere).

TM-Xx-002: I start with an example that I have not seen at Toro Muerto. It concerns one simple outlined “Hourglass” motif (see Figure 25C: inset).

TM-Nw-051: At the far NW end of Toro Muerto are two boulders close together (Figure 18). Boulder TM-Nw-051 (Núñez Jiménez (1986 Fig. 2717) has two petroglyphs that are diagonally arranged (has the boulder once been disturbed?). To the right of a stripe topped by a zoomorph is an outlined “Hourglass” motif, each with a short and thick pecked groove centrally emerging from the base (symbolising vulvas?).

Figure 18: Boulders TM-Nw-051 and TM-Nw-052 at Toro Muerto. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TM-Nw-052: A short distance to the NE is the much larger Boulder TM-Nw-052 with – on Panel A – one large, fully pecked “Hourglass” motif (Núñez Jiménez 1986: Fig. 2720) framed by serpentine grooves and topped by a grooves-and-triangles configuration (Figure 18).

TM-Nw-039: In the same sector, but higher up, is a large boulder (TM-Nw-039) with one petroglyph of an “Hourglass” motif. The lower half is fully pecked, while the upper half is outlined having two dots giving the impression of a face (Figure 19). On the same panel are two pecked rectangles with two short lines emerging from corners of the top (see also a similar petroglyph – having curls – at the top of Boulder TM-Ba-019; see Figure 24). Those rectangular motifs may be culturally and chronologically related.

Figure 19: Boulders TM-Nw-39 at Toro Muerto. Photographs © by Maarten van Hoek.

TM-Cw-015: On this boulder is a rather complex, outlined example of the “Hourglass” motif (Figure 20). Each triangle has a large dot, while a faint groove connects those dots. The two images of zoomorphs drawn by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2396) have either weathered off or never existed. In the field I could not recognise those zoomorphic petroglyphs with certainty.

Figure 20: Boulder TM-Cw-015. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, the drawing based on Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2396).

TM-Cd-027: Much further SE is Boulder TM-Cd-027 with one outlined, yet irregular example of the “Hourglass” motif. The interior is marked by a small and a large dot (Figure 21). Notice the two anthropomorphic figures with appendages shaped like the curls in some “Hourglasses”.

Figure 21: Boulder TM-Cd-027. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, the drawing based on Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2719).

TM-Bc-014: On this “small” boulder sits one fully pecked “Hourglass” motif that is enclosed by a discontinuous (unfinished?) frame, which is also shaped as an “Hourglass” (Figure 22).

Figure 22: Boulder TM-Bc-014. Inset: the drawing by Núñez Jiménez. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, inset: based on Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2718).

TM-Xx-001: This panel (which I have not seen myself) shows at least one “Hourglass” Motif. It is fully pecked, while this time it is framed by a continuous “Hourglass” frame, which measures 26 cm in height. Importantly, to the right of the framed “Hourglass” are two fully pecked, mirrored “Dagger” motifs, separated by a fully pecked triangle and enclosed by two hooked lines (Figure 23). I now will use those “Dagger” motifs on this panel to tentatively establish a (cultural?) relationship between the “Hourglass” motif and the “Dagger” motif (see Van Hoek 2018: 15 – 16; Fig. 4). First of all, the motifs are found very close together. Secondly, if you horizontally join Motifs 1 and 2, one (different) triangle will be created (Motif 3 in Figure 23), which now has two short spirals emerging from the upper corners. If you hypothetically join the imaginary Motif 3 onto the apex of Element 4, an “Hourglass” motif is formed.

Figure 23: Some of the petroglyphs on Boulder TM-Xx-001. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek, based on a photograph by Karol Liver; Pangean Path.

TM-Ba-019: In the far NW part of Toro Muerto is Boulder TM-Ba-019, featuring two fully pecked (yet not framed) “Hourglass” motifs (Figure 24). Importantly, immediately above the “Hourglass” petroglyphs are two fully pecked “Dagger” motifs similarly arranged and analogously separated by a fully pecked triangle as in Boulder TM-Xx-001. Also those “Dagger” motifs can theoretically be joined  with the single triangle to form one “Hourglass” motif with curls/spirals. However, in order to establish a possible relationship, it is not obligatory that the “Hourglass” and the “Dagger” are found close together, as is demonstrated in the following two entries.

Figure 24: Boulder TM-Ba-019. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek.

TM-Bb-001A: The first combination distantly arranged on one panel is found on what probably is the largest decorated panel at Toro Muerto: Panel TM-Bb-001A (Figure 25A). It measures about 650 cm from west to east. Among the many images is a group of three petroglyphs (marked 1, 2 and 3? in Figure 25C) that has been completely incorrectly drawn by Eloy Linares Málaga below a totally illegible drawing of the whole panel (2011: 153). This group is in fact found at the centre of Panel TM-Bb-001 (actual position marked with the smaller white cross in Figure 25C). The factual layout of the three petroglyphs is shown in Figure 25B. Importantly, Petroglyph 3 is not a biomorphic figure, but a fully pecked, slightly deformed  “Hourglass” motif with a much smaller lower part. Even more important is the fact that on the same panel a configuration of two “Dagger” motifs is found (marked with an oval in Figure 25A and C) (for a detailed photo see Van Hoek 2011: 115).

Figure 25A: Panel TM-Bb-001A. Photograph © by Rutas Culturales (Facebook). B: Detail. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek. C: Panel TM-Bb-001A according to Linares Málaga (2011: 153).  C. Inset: Panel TM-Xx-002 after Núñez Jiménez 1986 (Fig. 2613). Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek.

TM-NNx-002A: At the far NW of Toro Muerto is the important Sector-X, comprehensibly described by me earlier, yet not surveyed by me (Van Hoek 2022e and f). On Panel TM-NNx-002A is an “Hourglass” motif that is comparable with the example on Panel TM-Bb-001. It is fully pecked as well and also has a smaller lower part (Figure 26; see also the inset). Importantly, the larger, upper part has a curl at each corner, which are downwards arranged. Moreover, on the same panel is a motif that may be related to the “Dagger” motif (also marked in yellow in Figure 26).

Figure 26: Panel TM-NNx-002A. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on an illustration by James Posso Sánchez (2020: 134).

TM-Dx-025: This is the only panel (together with Panel TM-Ba-019) with two petroglyphs of the “Hourglass” motif (Figure 27). The panel (rather inaccurately drawn by Núñez Jiménez 1986: Fig. 2246; Figure 27) has one large, fully pecked example with – importantly – a downwards orientated short curl from each corner of the upper half (compare with Figure 26). The slightly smaller example has a fully pecked lower part and an outlined upper part containing a smaller triangle with a central dot. Again, from each corner of the upper part emerges a short curl (the whole of the upper part misinterpreted as a bird by Núñez Jiménez). Theoretically it is possible that fully pecked triangles once showed interior decoration (or were only completely or partially outlined and empty), which were (ritually?) obliterated by later prehistoric visitors to the site (see Van Hoek 2005).

Figure 27: Boulder TM-Dx-025. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek; drawing based on Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2246).


Discussing the “Hourglass” Motif

Based on the descriptions of the above examples, it seems as if the “Hourglass” motif does not have a specific distribution-pattern. Yet, it has. Toro Muerto is a long boulder field that runs NW-SE diagonally across the much sloping desert. Except for Boulders TM-Xx-001 and TM-Xx-002, for which I do not know the location, all boulders bearing the “Hourglass” motif are located along the western fringe of the boulder field. Moreover, I do not know of any example in the easter half of Toro Muerto (mind you, although we have surveyed most boulders at Toro Muerto, we definitely have not seen all decorated boulders at this enormous site).

This (almost) exclusive western orientation of the “Hourglass” motif seems to be paralleled by the distribution of the icon of the “Rectangular Bird” at Toro Muerto; a most specific bird type  that has been fully discussed by me in my earlier publication about Sector-X (Van Hoek 2022e and f). Regarding the “Rectangular Bird” I argued that – in general – members of the Majes Culture, who were slightly influenced by the rectilinearized iconography of the visiting Wari Culture (Rebecca Stone-Miller 1995: 144-149), manufactured a “new” layer of petroglyphs that focussed more on the SW half of the site and largely (but not completely) ignored the NE fringe.

Indeed, the “Rectangular Bird” is found distributed all over Toro Muerto, but again there is a remarkable distribution-pattern. From south to north (over a distance of 5500 m) a minimum of 117 petroglyphs of “Rectangular Birds” are now known to me to exist at Toro Muerto. Remarkably, 108 examples of those 117 petroglyphs (of which I know the locations) prove to be distributed rather unevenly across the site. No less than 94 examples of the “Rectangular Bird” are found at the SW part of the diagonally orientated boulder field at Toro Muerto (distributed over a NW-SE distance of 5100 m, with – incredibly – at least 48 examples within the only 60 m long Sector-X), while the eastern part has only 14 examples (found over a NW-SE distance of “just” 3200 m). Importantly, up to now (writing September 2022) four petroglyphs of the “Rectangular Bird” at Sector-X are known to carry a “Trophy” Head.

I now argue that the “Hourglass” motif and associated motifs (like the “Dagger” motif) also belong to the rectilinearized rock art repertoire of the Majes Culture, which was (modestly) influenced by the Wari Culture. However, because the “Hourglass” motif seems to be unknown in Wari iconography (as far as I know), it most likely represents a purely local concept. Regarding the dating of the motif, it is possible that the two “Hourglass” motifs on Panel AP1-001E at Alto de Pitis represent an early (pre-Wari) type of “Hourglass”, but equally the “Hourglass” motif may have travelled from Toro Muerto (where it originated?) to Alto de Pitis at a (much?) later (Wari or post-Wari) stage and beyond.

That the “Hourglass” motif may well have travelled along ancient routes through the desert, seems to be confirmed at two groups of geoglyphs that are found along routes across the pampas east of the Majes Valley. One example (Figure 28A) is found on the Pampa de Majes (at 1442 m asl), 9856 m NE of Boulder AP-001 at Alto de Pitis (which is found at 462 m asl). It shows a geoglyph that (when inverted) looks like the petroglyph in Figure 25. The second, probably much larger geoglyph (Figure 28B) is found further east, on the Pampa de Sihuas. It is flanked by two backwards-looking quadrupeds (felines?), the layout of which is similar to a petroglyph (a camelid? or a hybrid camelid-feline figure?) at Toro Muerto (see Núñez Jiménez 1986: Fig. 2417). However, whatever the age or place of origin of the “Hourglass” motif, it will remain an enigma what exactly the motif represents or symbolises.

Figure 28: Group of geoglyphs at A: Pampa de Majes; B: Pampa de Sihuas. Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek, both based on photographs by SV-Arqueologos (Facebook).


The Importance of Being Factual

In this study about the petroglyphs on Boulder AP1-001 at Alto de Pitis I occasionally referred to earlier works, in fact mainly to illustrations by Hans Dietrich Disselhoff, Eloy Linares Málaga and Antonio Núñez Jiménez. Those academic investigators published various illustrations of rock art in the Central Majes Valley. Regarding the drawings of Alto de Pitis it is still completely obscure who actually made several of the published drawings, as in several instances the drawings of Linares Málaga and Núñez Jiménez are exactly identical. It is thus impossible that those drawings were made by two persons at different times. As both academics passed away several years ago (and I only communicated with Linares Málaga for a short period of time prior to 2005) I cannot solve this conundrum.

In order to explain the problems I have with certain (but definitely not all) published illustrations of Majes rock art by academics, I again refer to the illustrations of Boulder AP1-001 at Alto de Pitis; one made and published by Linares Málaga (1973-2013: Fig. 45; see Figure 6) and the other by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2057). The boulder in question (AP1-001) was probably first reported to the scientific world by Linares Málaga and/or Alberto Fuentes Llaguno in 1951, while a rather clear photo of the panel was published by Núñez Jiménez in 1986 (Fig. 2058). I photographed the boulder (see Figure 8) for the first time in 2009 and then again during several other surveys.

Regarding their illustrations, it is certain that both Linares Málaga and Núñez Jiménez cannot be praised to be accurate. Especially the drawings by Linares Málaga can be chaotically incorrect (see for instance Van Hoek 2016: Fig. 10), but I have also questioned numerous drawings published by Núñez Jiménez (Van Hoek 2011). But in both instances I have never commented on the persons, because Disselhoff, Linares Málaga and Núñez Jiménez never intended to intentionally draw and publish incorrect illustrations. They never intended to deceive their readers. My only reason to draw attention to the inaccuracies in the illustrations published by Disselhoff, Linares Málaga and Núñez Jiménez, is to warn rock art researchers and archaeologists to be aware of the factual incorrectness of many of their illustrations, in the hope that nobody uncritically reproduces their drawings and publish them again, as if they are correct. Unfortunately, people in general do not want to be warned or commented on. Often they prefer to ignore the issue and/or even boycott and/or penalise the whistle-blower.

Of a completely different order are illustrations of rock art panels that have been intentionally falsified for whatever reason. In a previously published paper I offered the interested reader two examples of a publication of an intentional falsification of a rock art panel in Peru (more details in Van Hoek 2022f: Figs 1 and 2). One author honourably apologised for the error (personally to me, but also publicly online); the second author never reacted to a – now deleted – online publication in Spanish (Van Hoek 2022f: Fig. 2).

Thus, in this study it may seem as if I severely criticise Hans Dietrich Disselhoff, Eloy Linares Málaga and Antonio Núñez Jiménez for having published several omissions, inaccuracies and errors regarding their illustrations. That is – generally speaking – true, but, mind you, I am definitely not judging the persons of Disselhoff, Linares Málaga or Núñez Jiménez in any way; only (a number of) their illustrations. I realise very well that many of those errors are due to many understandable circumstances, principally because their investigations took place many decades ago (thus lacking any digital technology). Yet, especially Núñez Jiménez achieved a tremendous job and his book is still extremely valuable (but please use with alertness). I admire him for his perseverance, while meticulously surveying numerous rock art sites in Peru. About twenty years later I literally followed his footsteps (Van Hoek 2011).

Yet I simply cannot always accept (too many of) their illustrations as factually correct. There are too many errors, like incomplete images, inaccurate images and incorrect images in their publications. An illustrative example is given in Figure 29. Drawing “A” depicts a petroglyph at El Vado in the Palpa Valley of southern Peru that was published by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2007). It shows a pattern, which cannot at all be identified as a zoomorph.

Drawing “C” of the same panel was made by me and clearly shows the image of a feline. However, when disapproving of an illustration made by another author, it is only fair to offer proof supporting your criticism. Therefore, in order to be able to compare published illustrations with the reality, an original, unaltered photograph is essential in order to check the correctness of the illustrations. Thus an original, unaltered photograph should (must) always be supplied (by either the author or the publishing editor) when asked for. My original 2011-photo of  Panel VAD-008B is shown in Figure 29B (and I have more, full-size examples on request).

Figure 29A: Drawing by Núñez Jiménez (1986: Fig. 2007). B and C: Feline petroglyph on Panel VAD-008B at El Vado, Palpa Valley, southern Peru. Drawings and photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.

My only concern is that nowadays several rock art researchers continue to uncritically (re-) publish certain illustrations, as if they are correct, even when alerted by me. Therefore, I strongly advocated (Van Hoek 2011) that – for instance – it should be conscientiously avoided to uncritically copy and publish drawings by Núñez Jiménez without the warning that his drawings are incorrect in about 25% of all his illustrations. In my 2011-book (available as PDF on the internet) I have collected numerous examples of drawings that are incomplete, inaccurate or incorrect (and – after the publication in 2011 – I found many more examples; see for instance Van Hoek 2020a: Fig. 2). Please, be careful when using or publishing drawings by Núñez Jiménez! Your study may become (more than) questionable. It may even become scientifically unacceptable.

That the academic world often cannot accept that also skilled, academic archaeologists publish unreliable and even incorrect material, is evidenced by the following case. In 2020 Prof. Beth Scaffidi and Prof. Tiffiny Tung published two factually incorrect illustrations of rock art panels from the Majes Valley, southern Peru (2020: Figs 3a and b). I alerted the authors via email and a paper (Van Hoek 2020b), but I never got any reaction. Because Scaffidi and Tung preferred not to answer any of my emails, I arduously discussed the case during many months in the period 2020-2022 with my colleague, academic archaeologist Justin Jennings (University of Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada), and – after having understandably shielded Scaffidi and Tung for some time – Justin finally admitted that their Figs 3a and b were incorrect. Justin also informed me in 2020 that Scaffidi and Tung would write an Erratum to put things right.

However, after more than a year no Erratum had been published. I therefore contacted Prof. Trudy Turner, the editor of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, and asked her if she could be of assistance in having an Erratum published that I would approve of. I also explicitly asked her if she could provide me with the original, unaltered photographs of the Scaffidi-Tung “photos” (2020: Fig. 3ab). After a long wait and a second email I finally got her answer (but no photos) in which she promised that an online Erratum would be published by the end of May 2022. However, no Erratum; no original photos. In July I therefore wrote to three official USA instances (supposed to be guardians of integrity regarding verifiable falsification) and explained the case, asking several times for the original, unaltered photos. All in vain. Yet, finally, after pressure from my side, on 19 July 2022 an “Erratum” was published online (also including two large-format D-Stretch photos).

However, the text of the “Erratum” by Scaffidi and Tung was completely irrelevant, only dealing with the caption of their incorrect “photos”. Moreover, their “Erratum” only included two photos, both altered with D-Stretch (Figure 30), thus not the original photos. Yet, Mr. Michael Streeter, the Director of the Publisher (Wiley), emailed me and informed me that the “Erratum” did in fact feature the original photos. Apparently Streeter does not know the difference between manipulated photos and the originals. Moreover, he one-sidedly declared the case closed. In his opinion I should be happy with altered photos and a meaningless -“Erratum”. Fortunately, in August 2022 Justin Jennings agreed with me that their 2022 “Erratum” did not offer the original photos and that in every case original photos should have been provided along with any manipulated material. Justin also agreed with me that the two illustrations by Tung and Scaffidi (2020: Figs 3a and b) are factually incorrect. In fact Justin Jennings also agreed with me that their “Erratum” did not at all address any of my (repeatedly) expressed concerns. My Figures 31 and 32 clearly demonstrate that their illustrations (2020: Figs 3 a and b) are incorrect (see also Van Hoek 2023b: Fig. 9).

Figure 30: The two D-Stretch  (thus not original) photos published in the irrelevant “Erratum” by Prof. Tiffiny Tung and Prof. Beth Scaffidi (2022). Figure 30 has been deleted by me because Prof. Scaffidi rightly objected against her material being used by me. Use the hyperlinks to see their 2022-“Erratum” and download their large-format D-Stretch photos.

Figure 31: A: My 2010-drawing of a petroglyph at Toro Muerto (see also Figure 32) compared with B: the incorrect illustration of the same petroglyph published by Scaffidi and Tung (based on their “photo” of 2020: Fig. 3a).  Drawings © by Maarten van Hoek.

Figure 32. The “Trophy” Head Carrier on Boulder TM-Da-032 at Toro Muerto. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek. Compare the factually incorrect illustration by Scaffidi and Tung (the orange inset in the photo above) with the photograph that I made of the Toro Muerto “Trophy” Head Carrier. Their original illustration [not a “photograph”] published in 2020 is available here: Fig. 3a). The question-marks in the inset mark the discrepancies and prove that – except for the “Trophy” Head, of course – nothing is held by the figure and that thus there is no weapon or object held by this figure. Moreover the layout of their Fig. 3a is completely different and thus factually incorrect. The same goes for their Fig. 3b, which is fully discussed by me in another publication (Van Hoek 2023b).

I now wonder why Scaffidi and Tung would prefer to publish incorrect illustrations (2020: Fig. 3ab), when in the same 2020-paper they refer to the correct drawing published by Núñez Jiménez (1986) and even to the correct drawings published by me (Van Hoek 2010)? Why moreover ignoring correct illustrations (their own D-Stretch photos!) and yet publishing factually incorrect illustrations? Their “photos” (2020: Fig. 3) are definitely not photos taken in the field. I challenge everybody to visit Majes and make identical photos. Moreover, based on their two incorrect illustrations they claim that Majes rock art shows a preoccupation with violence. Violence in Majes rock art? I convincingly demonstrated that there is no question of Majes rock art showing an obsession with violence (see Van Hoek 2021b).

Having said all this, I regret that Scaffidi and Tung do not want to admit that their 2020-“photos” (Figs 3a and b) in fact only offer incorrect “tracings” that have been superimposed upon their original photos, resulting in incorrect illustrations and incorrect (rock art related) conclusions that are only based on their incorrect illustrations. Moreover, they never admitted that their photos in their “Erratum” are not the original photos.

To conclude, I emphasise again that Disselhoff, Linares Málaga and Núñez Jiménez are not in any way to blame for any of their graphical inaccuracies and errors. There is no question of intent. However, in this study I demonstrated that certain (academic) archaeologists do not have any problem producing incorrect (graphical and textual) information – not even after having been alerted by me – and still continue either to re-publish that incorrect information, and/or maintain that their illustrations of certain rock art panels offer the correct renderings. In such cases those authors are misleading the readers of their publications.



I am most grateful to Rainer Hostnig for sharing with me the 1986-book by Antonio Núñez Jiménez, which I used intensively over the past 20 years and – of course – also while preparing this study about Boulder AP1-001 at Alto de Pitis. I also would like to thank Justin Jennings (academic archaeologist, University of Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada) for supporting me in the 2020-Tung-Scaffidi issue. I also am indebted to Rutas Culturales for their permission to use the photographs from their Facebook pages. Last but not least I am grateful to my wife Elles for her assistance at Alto de Pitis (and Toro Muerto and many other sites) and for her ongoing support at home.



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


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