Two hours northeast of Lima, Peru, near the quaint village of Santa Rosa de Quives, one finds the phenomenal archaeological petroglyphs field known as "Checta". A Quechua word meaning, "one of many," Checta is home to hundreds of pre-Incan rock carvings. This ancient 5,000-year-old site once encompassed a large lake and temple complex, buried for eons under a landslide high above the valley. In one dreadful moment in 1925, hundreds of ancient carved stones were revealed when a deadly avalanche stormed down the valley, killing 14,000 people.
The day we arrived, we were introduced to Doña Consuelo Livia, an 88-year-old great- grandmother known as the "Protectress of Checta". For more then 60 years, she has dedicated herself to the preservation of the site. Consuelo happily greeted us, eager to share her stories.
In recent days, arthritis prevents Consuelo from visiting her beloved stones, high on the hills above her modest home. However, she has fond memories of her old friends, the carved stones. "Spirits protect this place," she mused, as she pointed toward the site. For Consuelo, it all began when she was a young mother in the early 1930's. Incredibly, one night she dreamed of an old man, who revealed the mountain and carved stones to her, and subsequently gave her a mission. She was to create a cross and erect it on the site, thus bringing sanctity back to the venerable temple.
At that time, the area was completely barren. There were no houses or people, only the mountain and the stones. She and her young daughter labored alone to create and erect the Cross, whereupon she dedicated her life to the protection of the site.
Beaming with pride at the years of service God had entrusted to her, she spoke of the spirit of place and the living stones. Her life was a modest one; she lived in a small adobe home with dirt floors, sparse furnishings, and the donations that visitors would leave. This pittance provided for very little, although she sustained and held the highest intent for Checta without complaint.
We had no reason to doubt this calling, and gifted her with all the money we had. Although it was not nearly enough, we pledged to tell others about the remarkable, carved stones and their protectress.
Out of time and off the beaten path, visitors are rare to Checta. The site is barely accessible and is well hidden from the road. A small sign identifies it to motorists; if one blinks, it won't be seen.
A difficult climb over a muddy riverbed and steep rocky ledge will take the visitor to the rockslide, high on the cliffs above. Here, hundreds of spectacular stones wait, like Easter eggs before the hunt.
The stones are scattered randomly over several acres along a grassy cliff. As we came upon our first stone, we felt like giddy children on a treasure hunt. "Look, here!" "No, over here!" "I have a better one, here!"
We marveled at the carvings - a strange, humanlike face, odd animals, spirals, a dumb-bell. There were a cross and double helix, a horned shaman with the sun, and an exotic, antlered animal that defied imagination. Researchers believe that a single culture carved all the stones, but nowhere did we find a suitable explanation for the marvelous carved images we found that day at Checta.
For more on Checta, read Martin Barco's new book, Checta: Broken Rock, Cracked Firewood
Consuelo Livia Aranguren (“The Lady of Checta”) passed away on September 22, 2005. She is buried at the Yangas's cemetery, about 4 miles from Checta. Martin Barco tells us that “her
grave is looking at the sky, like she used to do, always looking at the heavens, looking for birds, for stars, and finally for God.”
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