Chilean ancient culture unveiled by rock art llamas

SANTIAGO – Almost three millennia ago, Chilean desert settlers left their legacy printed on stone. Now, archeologists have found drawings that explain more about Chile’s ancient civilization’s lifestyle. Conservationists want UNESCO to recognize the Taira Valley drawings as a national heritage site.

The testimony of the ancient civilization’s legacy was first discovered by Swedish archaeologist Stig Ryden. The rock art can be observed at the Taira caverns, in the Atacama Desert, Chile. The paintings were left by an almost-three-millennia-old culture that lived in the harsh desert. Drawn by cavern people and shepherds, the rock art is demanded by conservationists to become a national heritage site, so that the region can be better-developed as a tourist attraction.

La Llama is the masterpiece of the open air rock art. At more than 30 meters from the Loa River sits the Taira Alero a stone wall where La Llama shows drawings that explain how important the llama as an animal was for the culture. It was considered by them as an element of richness, and used in rituals as sacrifice to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth). “Taira is a celebration of life, a shepherd rite to ask deities that govern the earth and heaven for the increase of their llama flocks” said the archeologist José Berenguer, who has spent 35 years studying the site.

The Taira Alero is placed more than 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) from the sea level, at 75 kilometers from Calama, in the north Chile. Measuring 3 meters high and 10 meters long, It holds the evidence of how Chilean desert settlers lived. “No one can understand the things done 18,000 years ago, because the cultures that did them have disappeared. But in this case, it is possible to get to know it as the ethnography exists. There are people who handle almost the same practices than in the past” added Berenguer.

A book called “The Universe of our Grandparents” written in conjunction with the Atacama observatory, claims that the ancient inhabitants of this area studied the stars to help them learn how to manage the inhospitable desert and its dangers. In their own way of perceiving the world, the universe was built up of the heaven and the earth as a whole. The testament left on the rocks suggests that they were able to understand signals from the stars, which helped them to survive the desert.

Taira isn’t the oldest example of rock art in the area. To the north in the copper mining Antofagasta region lies Kalina, which is around 1,000 – 1,200 years older. The petroglyphs there show more than 20 panels of rock art, in which the theme is about camelid images. Most of the pictures contain pregnant female camelies. That expresses the author’s’ concern about camelid fertility, and those images point at the belief that petroglyphs had power to guarantee the multiplication of those animals. Kalina is thus, another example of Chile’s cultural richness.

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