The Message of the Engraved Stones of Ica
by Javier Cabrera Darquea
* All Editions are out-of-print at this time.
The Message of the Engraved Stones of Ica
by Javier Cabrera Darquea
(1924 – 2001)
On the 8th of April of 1976 I had the satisfaction of presenting to the Peruvian public the first edition of this book in Spanish in the Room of Conventions of the Hotel Crillon in Lima. Today I have the pleasure to offer it in Shakespeare’s language to the important and immense group of English spoken people.
The book has been named “THE MESSAGE OF THE ENGRAVED STONES OF ICA” and contains the results of about ten years of patient and systematic scientific investigation about the origin and meaning of some strange “stones” with enigmatic inscriptions engraved on their surfaces which were found in 1961 in a hidden deposit under the sands of the huge desert of Ocucaje situated on the coast of the Department of Ica, Peru.
I regret the Peruvian and foreign archeologists’ prejudgment who got to know the “stones” because they deprived the people from seeing the scientific magnitude and transcendency of these lithic specimens – the only ones all over the world – and instead of studying them, irrespectively and showing irresponsibility they declared – by simple visual observation – the engraving was just made and therefore the “stones” were of no archeological value. With no scruples at all they decided not to make any analysis which could confirm their rushed opinions, asseverating that the lithic specimens were archeological fakes. From that ominous opinion these mysterious “engraved stones” were forsaken and given up to the unbeaten time in the most opprobious forgetfulness.
When everything looked as if the archeologists had achieved their purposes of proscribing, from the national archeology, these suggestive “stones”, a friend of my childhood and also my patient had the idea of giving me as a gift, on May 13, 1966; one of these stones “in order to use it as a paperweight on my desk”. And that it was our happy encounter. Neither Dr. Cabrera nor anybody else could have imagined that working as a doctor in medicine I could have gotten the opportunity to free these lithic specimens from the unjust prison they were confined to during six long years in a junkyard of the Regional Museum from Ica.
I confess once I had the first Engraved Stone of Ica I felt I was right in front of a very archaic human fact and had the necessity to begin the expensive mission of rescuing, studying and guarding these abandoned “stones”. Years later, I discovered they were a great part of an extraordinary documental of human facts beyond the Peruvian space, beyond the planet and not within the geological time which scientists had assigned to the origin and evolution of humankind.
This was really an unprecedented discovery which threw down the human prehistory and brought to the ground the Universal History built up in millenniums with an ingenuous imagination, prejudgments and dogmas and without suspecting that some day it could have been found bibliography from archaic files as the ones I have had the privilege to be their finder and lucky reader and interpreter.
January 20, 1989
At 360 kilometers south of Lima – capital of Peru – in the coastal province of Ica, there were discovered in 1961 some strange and mysterious stones shaped somewhat like river rocks. The strangeness, the mystery of the stones was that they pictured animals, men and ways of life very different from those previously discovered by students of the classical cultures of Peru. The stones came from Ocucaje, an agreeable little town located 40 kilometers south of Ica. In this region, underground, are to he found innumerable graves of men who lived in the times of the Inca and before; lying on the surface of the earth are petrified remains of both tiny and huge prehistoric animals. Ocucaje lies in an immense desert criss-crossed by mounds of ancient rocks, perhaps the oldest on the planet. There, in the solitude of the desert landscape, testimonials to the recent past and the ancient past lie side by side. And if it were not for the small fields that arise on either side of the river – dry most of the year – that crosses the desert, it might be said that this part of the world had died, that time stopped here.
The strange stones were found by the peasants of Ocucaje. Ocucaje lies in the zone where since the beginning of the century the finest ancient textiles and ceramics have been unearthed, and the peasants have dedicated themselves, generation after generation, to the clandestine practice of searching for artifacts. On a clear night, armies of men armed with picks, their faces covered so as not to breath the stench of the graves, protected by amulets to defend them against evil spirits, with the silence as their only witness, perform the enigmatic task of literally uncovering the past. For long hours these moving shadows people the desert; if someone unaware of what they were doing should happen to surprise then at their work, he would think that the dead had abandoned their endless sleep to arise from the grave and take up their lives where death had interrupted them in some unknown moment so long ago.
The unusual figures engraved on the stones amazed the archeologists who saw them: they could not he reconciled with what was known of the men who had lived in ancient Peru, and they toppled all knowledge that had been pieced together regarding that era. Doubt about the authenticity of the stones was their first response. Loyal to the notion that the oldest human beings in Peru dated from no more than 20,000 years ago and that only 3,000 years ago was there an advanced civilization to he found in the region, they could not admit the hypothesis that the stones might be evidence of a civilization much older than the classical cultures of Peru, that is to say, older than the Incas or the Pre-Incas.
The incredulity of the archeologists was communicated to the cultural authorities of the country. The engraved stones of Ica, which kept appearing and finding their way into private collections, were passed over by the archeologists and other specialists. Carlos and Pablo Soldi, who had collected the first stones that appeared in Ocucaje repeatedly requested that their specimens he studied, but the experts decided to ignore their persistent petitions. In 1966, an architect named Santiago Agurto Calvo carried out excavations in the graves of Ocucaje to try to determine if the engraved stones, of which he had a substantial collection acquired years before, came from them. Santiago Agurto Calvo was able to find some specimens which led him to believe that the stones had been carved by pre-Incaic man. It was the first time that the exact provenance of some specimens was known. But despite this conformity with the demands of the science of archeology, archeologists were still not interested in studying the stones.
Six years after the first discoveries of the engraved stones, and without being aware of the work of the Soldi brothers and of Santiago Agurto Calvo, I came across several hundred examples. My investigations in the field of biology, in connection with my lectureship at the Universidad Nacional “San Luis Gonzaga” of Ica, allowed me to identify the unusual fauna engraved on the stones as animals which paleontologists tell us existed in prehistory. By a simple process of deduction I realized that the engraved stones of Ica revealed the contemporaneous existence of man and prehistoric animals, which meant that man existed a million years ago. I knew, of course, that scientists are convinced of the idea that man, as an intelligent being, appeared – after a long, slow process of primate brain development – only 250,000 years ago; but I was forced to the conclusion that the Ica stones called into question not only conventional wisdom about the antiquity of original Peruvians but also about the appearance of man on earth. I began to collect the stones in order to study then and determine their scientific validity.
Later, after more examination, I observed that certain apparently enigmatic figures which in some cases gave the impression of being decorative, were symbols used in a system of expression. Thus the engraved stones of Ica were revealed not as evidence of an art form carved in stone, but as testimonials to the deeds and actions of human beings. After nearly ten years of patient and systematic study of the over 11,000 specimens which up my museum, I have been able to derive much valuable information, not all of which, given its variety and its sheer mass, fit in one book. They are facts that have nothing to do with the Inca or Pre-Inca cultures, cultures of Peru’s recent past. On the contrary, they are proof that the engraved stones come only very rarely from the tombs of these cultures, and that man existed on earth millions of years ago. They speak of the existence of a people whose capacity to reflect, whose ability to increase and conserve knowledge led them to reach a scientific and technological level much more advanced even than today. The marks left by this humanity are to be found in many mediums, in many and varied objects from all aver the world; the figures and symbols used by other ancient cultures are part of the same system of expression that was used in the engraved stones of Ica. These signs of universality reveal that one people was established throughout the globe. Put since the medium of choice of this ancient people to leave their record was that almost eternal material, the stone I have decided to call the engraved stones “glyptoliths” and the people that left them “glyptolithic humanity”.
The information conveyed in the stones of Ica contains invaluable messages left by an ancient humanity to the humanity of the future. Under strange and difficult to explain circumstances, they have been deciphered in our time. And as their messages reveal to us that man is capable of unthinkable intellectual achievements if he merely aspires to the heights that those who came before him have attained, I believe that the engraved stones of Ica are the most important legacy of our time. My belief in this has compelled me, willingly, to open my museum to the disposition not only of students and scientists but of any person who wishes to see them. When I am asked to publish my opinion about them or to share the results of my investigations, or for permission to photograph them, I have acceded with great pleasure. The 11,000 stones wait for other foreign students and scientist and, especially, for the students of the Peruvian past to examine them and confirm the truth they tell.
I think that the engraved stones of Ica explain rationally much of what we now see as enigmatic or fabulous about the past existence of man. The achievements of that remote humanity are so far beyond the present capabilities of man that, if the concrete evidence did not exist, the inferences I draw from them in this book would risk sounding like the product of an extraordinary imagination.
ANOTHER HUMANITY EXISTED
It was the beginning of May, 1966. Felix Llosa Romero, my childhood friend, crossed the Plaza de Arras of Ica and arrived at ray home, where I regularly saw my patients. Felix Llosa Romero had in his right hand a small stone. “I’ve brought you a present”, he said, “I thought it would make a pretty paperweight for your desk”. When he handed it to me it felt surprisingly heavy. It was shaped like an oval, and it was engraved on one side with a carving of a fish I did not recognize. The stone struck me as most unusual (Fig. 1).
This was the second carved stone I had seen. About thirty years earlier, when the land my father owned in Salas (a district of Ica) was being cleared for planting, the plow uncovered a similar stone. The workers said the stone had been carved by the Incas. They attributed the engraving to the Incas because it was common in this zone to find ceramics, metal and wood objects, textiles, and human remains of the ancient Peruvian civilizations that had inhabited the region (1). I remember that the stone the plow brought to light was decorated with a bird unknown to me. My father kept the stone. I was sixteen years old at the time and intended to enroll at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de “San Marcos” in Lima to study medicine. I was intrigued by the stone, but my studies quickly made me forget it, and I do not know what became of it…
My friend Felix Llosa Romero stood in my doorway as I pondered the possible origin of the stone he had just given me. I asked him where he had gotten it and he said his brother, who had a vast collection of such stones, had given it to him. This surprised me, because in Ica one was always hearing of ceramics, textiles, and other objects that from time to tine were found in Precolombian graves, but I have never heard of engraved stones. My surprise grew when Felix Llosa Romero added that for many years the huaqueros (2) of Ocucaje had been discovering a large number of these stones and had been selling them to archeology buffs. He also told me that Carlos and Pablo Soldi, who owned and lived on a plantation in Ocucaje, had the biggest collection of these stones that the architect Santiago Agurto Calvo had a collection, and that the Museo Regional of Ica had a few. I was perplexed.
Immediately I went to see Llosa’s brother and caught a glimpse, for the first time, of the enormous range of these ancient engravings. I saw carvings of birds, lizards, spiders, snakes, fish, shrimp, frogs, turtles, llamas (3). I saw drawings of men. I saw both staple and elaborately executed scenes of hunting and fishing. I saw also that the animals represented had different characteristics from those of the species as we know them: there were snakes with small wings on their spines; birds with horns; insects with pincers as long as their bodies; fish covered with wings. The scenes seemed actually to move, as if they were being enacted for my benefit. The owner of this collection confirmed what his brother had told me of the provenance of the stones.
This first experience with the engraved stones of Ica truly engaged my interest: I felt profoundly the need for a scientific investigation to clarify their mysterious origin and relation to the classical cultures of ancient Peru.
Quite by chance about that time, something happened which made me think there was a possibility that such an investigation might be carried out with official support: I was asked to found and direct the Casa de Cultura of Ica, an institution devoted to the promotion of science and letters in the region. It would be affiliated with the Casa de Cultura del Peru in Lima.
With the authority of new position, the first thing I did was approach Adolfo Bermudez Jenkis, Director of the Museo Regional of Ica, and ask him to let me see the engraved stones that, according to my friend Llosa, were in the possession of the Museum, none of which, on numerous visits, could I ever recall having seen. The Director confirmed the existence of the stones, and called for them to be taken out of storage so I could inspect them. When I tried to interest him in the idea of an official study of the stones, he replied that this was not necessary, since a friend of his had told him they were carved by the same huaqueros who then sold them. I asked him if his friend’s opinion was supported by laboratory tests, and again he replied that such tests were not called for.
To try to awaken the interest of Peruvian and visiting foreign scholars in the stones, I decided to form a collection of them to exhibit in the Casa de Cultura. With my own funds I began to acquire specimens, and eventually I accumulated over 5000. Some time afterwards I found out that to my surprise a year before my friend Llosa had given me my first stone, a student of Peru’s past, Herman Buse, had published a book in which he acknowledged the existence of the Ica stones (4). Buse writes that in 1961 a flooding of the Ica River had uncovered, in the zone of Ocucaje, a large number of these stones, which ever since had been an object of commerce for the huaqueros who found them. He added that many of these stones had been acquired by the Soldi brothers, who had later tried again and again, in vain, to interest archeologists in a study.
On December 11, 1966, I read a Lima newspaper article by Santiago Agurto Calvo – then Rector of the Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria – in which he noted the recent discovery of engraved stones in Pre-Incaic graves in the digs known as Max Uhle and Tomaluz, to the south of Ocucaje (5). The article said that one of the stones was carved on one side with the figure of a bird with outstretched wings, in full flight, carrying an ear of corn in its claws; another had a star-shaped design. The discovery had been made in the company of Alejandro Pezzia Assereto, an archeologist from the Patronato Nacional de Archeologia del Peru, a trustee of the Museo Regional of Ica and in charge of archeological investigations in the region. Agurto Calvo concluded that the discoveries proved the authenticity of the Ica stones and that they promised to open new avenues of research. After the publication of this article, written by a prestigious intellectual, I felt certain that archeologists would finally take an interest in the stones. In the months that followed I waited impatiently for an influx of students of ancient Peru, but they did not come.
While I waited, with my own collection of the stones before me, I set myself, somewhat idly at first, to try to discover the significance of the drawings. I had always had the feeling that the figures were not intended so much for artistic or decorative purposes as for the purpose of communicating aspects of the life of the human beings who had inhabited Peru in remote times. What I found as I continued to study the stones convinced me more and more each day that this had indeed been the intention.
(1) Archaeologists say that humanity in Peru is 20000 years old and that only 3,000 years ago did it acquire a cultural level of any importance. Culturally the Peruvians form very differentiated groups, distributed in different valleys of the Peruvians’ geography, and are referred to as Pre-Inca kingdoms or cultures. The kingdom of Cusco, the Inca culture, is much more recent and it dominated the others, some of which were by that time decadent, others having disappeared and the rest having maintained their splendor. The Inca and Pre-Inca cultures are called cultures of ancient Peru, Pre-Columbian cultures or Pre-Hispanic cultures; in the last two cases to indicate the limit of their existence, due respectively to the arrival of Columbus in America and the Spanish Conquerors in Peru. Sometimes in this book I refer to them as the classical cultures of ancient Peru, with the intention of stressing that they are from a recent past and therefore do not correspond to the humanity which is the subject matter of this book and which was spread throughout the world; and whose remains (the engraved stones of Ica) are the proof that man’s existence on Earth goes back billions of years.
(2) Huaquero: One who illegally does excavations in search of archaeological treasures, an activity severely penalized by Peruvian laws to protect the archaeological heritage of the country. The word comes from the Quechua word: huaca, which was used to designate all that was sacred, especially certain places. Nowadays, along the Peruvian coast, the mounds which contain retains of Pre-Columbian cultures, are known as “huacas”.
(3) Llama: Animal of the camel family, native to Peru.
(4) Herman Buse: INTRODUCCION AL PERU. Lima, 1965.
(5) Santiago Agurto Calvo: “Las piedras magicas de Ocucaje”. In the supplement of the daily newspaper El Comercio. Lima, 11 December 1966.