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The Petroglyp of Loma Alta
It looks like an enormous black egg embeded on the mountain slope.

By Nelson Peñaherrera. Photos by Estany Tineo.  Cambia a español.

SAPILLICA, Peru – “No, sir, the truck to Coletas departures tomorrow at five in the morning and gets back in the afternoon, assures us the driver of a motorcycle used as a taxi throough the tortuos dusty ways around this town. It is obvious that Juan, the driver, is trying to convince me for hiring the service.

It’s Thursday afternoon and since we have arrived to organize a minimum recognition logistics of
the petroglyph our partner Marco Paulini reported last July, we’ve just found supporting promises but very few options for visiting the monolyth which highlights a spiral trace carved on basaltic rock.

Are you going to The Devils’ Rock? That rock is bad! Pregnant women don’t pass over there,” a sixty-year-old lady warns me when she listens to my negotiation process with Juan. I take a little time to chat, hustle our producer estany Tineo, and try to whisper what we learned exploring wit Archeologist Daniel Dávila in Malingas (Tambogrande District)

During exploration we did between 2009 and 2011, we found tales of lights appearing suddenly in the croplands, overflying them, were clues that some archeological site was over there. And certainty was hundred per cent every case.

Lights are not here but ‘charms’.

What another place are grudged rocks?,” I ask the woman.

At the river, down there, an enormous place, uuh, an awful place,” she answers me.

One day later, Sapillica [pronounce “Sapijicah”] District Municipality’s Alesban López will confirme me there are, at least, five sites with petroglyps and
wankas (rare-shaped rocks considered as totems) only in Masías Bajo [pronounce “Maseeas Baho”] Community, not discarding more places across the 267.09 sq km distric, almost 27000 soccer fields.

It’s a little larger than Malingas and it’s abrupt because it’s already on the first slopes of Andean Western Range.

Juan gets me out of my thinkings. “Do or don’t we go on the cycle?,”  I look at Estany, I look at Marco, I apply guessing instead of common sense. “Let’s go,” I say.

Juan looks for another two partners and we organize an expedition what will takes one hour tripping, going up from 1400 meters to 1500 meters altitude, about 18 km to the south east of Sapillica town. I’m interested in getting there before 5:30 pm. for having a decent Light what allows Estany to take pictures of the stone. His eye is already trained after Malingas experience, so he will help me to complement Marco’s first observation more proppedeutic focus, and what I could contribute not being an Archeology specialist but advised by Daniel Dávila, more prospective focus so.

Not counting the dust, we arrived into the site in the scheduled time. Ten minutes before, we have cross over Loma Alta Creek, a.k.a. White Stones, and getting there, we hear anoter creek down the mountain, that, according to Masías Bajo’s local governor Daniel Berrú, is Coletas. Other minor flows segment the way before arriving to the petroglyph.

The rock is near Loma Alta Village and Marco calls my attention about the place name (high hill in English): “When you get out of Sapillica early in the morning, you get to see how the Sun raises from the mountain top, as if it born there,” he explains me. “When I saw that for the first time, I said the mountain had something special, and the rock is there, actually.”

In this story’s pre-production, we considered to go out eeearliest of Sapillica for making this picture, but we fasted forward so it will happen the next time. In the other hand, we have to rush up because it will be six o’clock in the afternoon very soon, and if I don’t want blurry photographs, I don’t want my crew gets back the base when the night starts to fall neither.

After removing some branches of a gate, we go a path on, a big hunch aactually that gets us away the way, and the big blacky rock is turning straight to the right, invaded by lichen and undergrowth.

The first surprise is its oval contour, not flat like the rest of petroglyphs we have visited and even
samanga’s, the best studied. The formation looks like a huge egg embeded on the mountain slope, and they carved the spiral, the anthropomorphic shape, what seems eyed faces, and a thing we can’t identify, and letters there. Letters? Yes, letters.
It is obvious that somebody wrote a sucession of several Latin alphabet’s characters, what seems to be a predation evidence but already known by the locals, so the second surprise goes here: if you ask for Loma Alta Petroglyph, novody will response, but if you ask for the Lettered Rock, then we will be referring to the same site.

And this feature questions us the key name we gave it in the crew – Paulini Petroglyph. It’s evident that local people knew it so much time ago, and inclusive Alesban López had released it on
Masías Bajo’s Facebook account some months before FACTORTIERRA.NET published it, but it seems not to cross over the public opinion.

Another sign the people request us to check out is a cross carved on the top of the rock. We ask if this is very old and if it is related to the haunted place’s idea, as the woman in Sapillica said us just a couple off hours before.
An exorcism trial?

Motorcycles’ drivers climb the rock, become part of the exploration crew better than we expected. Excellent. What we looked for is some publicity for the place and the work we want to do, and an enthusiastic collaboration as well. Learning with fun. Is there another successful way to do pedagogy?

Within all measure the rock height. 7.1 meters in its most exposed part, 5.2 meters in its less exposed part. It’s difficult to measure its contour due to its soval hape but we estimate its half-perimeter can be about five meters. In any case, more specialized equipment could have a more accurate measure and its geolocation as well.

Let’s go to remove the undergrowth,” Juan suggests his fellas. I only recommend they to be very careful for not creating additional lines to the rock, those predate it more.

It’s 6:10. Go fast with the selfies because we have to come back and it’s beginning to be cold.

Sapillica District still keeps evidences to study including a cave where, they assure, there are ancient bones.

It’s necessary money to launch a large investigation and confirm if the Archeologist Dávila’s first hypotheses is trrue: they’re part of a jíbaro corridor and belong to so-called Samanga Tradition.

Meanwhile, despite the backache of one of the guys, we feel satisfied for reaching the petroglyph on the right time. Tomorrow will be Friday and it will begin to rain.

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