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Discovery of the Pictographic Rock

In this valley was the third group of ruins which we had been told about. Their most unusual feature lay in the fact that the Incas, desiring to save as much of the upland valley floor as possible for agricultural purposes, had straightened the bed of the meandering stream and inclosed it in a stone-lined channel, making it practically perfectly straight for nearly three-quarters of a mile.

The valley is still used to a certain extent for raising and freezing potatoes. The owner of the hut near which we camped entertained our Indian guide in compensation for his assistance in spreading potatoes to be frozen that night some distance below us in the valley bottom. The next day our guide took us back up the valley and out through a smaller tributary, where we crossed the divide between the Urubamba and Apurimac valleys and descended toward the town of Limatambo.

This was one of the most fortunate accidents of the trip, for had we decided to go down the Chamaná over Mr. Tucker's route and return quickly down the Urubamba to our starting point, we should have missed seeing a most interesting rock which lay alongside of the little path we followed on this day's journey.

Neither the guide nor the muleteer had their eyes open for petroglyphic or pictographic markings, and so did not notice that they had passed close to the only rock so far discovered in the department of Cuzco that contains petroglyphs. Others have been reported by vague rumor, but none so far have been located except this one, whose existence was known to one or two cowboys on a neighboring ranch. The photograph gives a better idea of the markings than can be expressed in words.

The character of the petroglyphs is essentially savage. They remind one of some of the glyphs used by our own western Indians. It seems to me possible that these marks were left on this rock by an Amazon Indian tribe who came thus far on the road to Cuzco. In the vicinity there were a few groups of stones which might indicate the former presence of rude huts, but until a comparative study can be made of all the pictographs and petroglyphs in Peru and in the Amazon basin it will be difficult to speak very definitely about this new discovery.

That night I was most hospitably entertained at a small ranch house and the next day made a forced march to Cuzco, reaching there shortly before midnight. This journey, which began so inauspiciously and might have ended in disastrous failure, actually produced more results in the discovery of hitherto undescribed ruins than any other part of the work.


In 1909, owing to the courtesy of the Peruvian government and at their urgent invitation, I had visited the ruins of Choqquequirau. An account of this visit was published in the American Anthropologist for October-December, 1910 (pages 505-525), and also in my Across South America, pages 291-323.

A French expedition had visited the ruins about 60 years before and had reached them from the north, over a path that has turned back several expeditions since then. In 1909, owing to the existence of a small temporary bridge, I was able to reach them from the south, but had not found it possible to spend more than four days there.

That bridge disappeared some time ago, and as it was now deemed advisable to attempt a further reconnaissance of those celebrated ruins, I asked Mr. Heald to see whether he could not reach them from the north, across the cordillera of Vilcabamba. An enthusiastic young German merchant in Cuzco had attempted this feat two years before, but failed to get more than half way from Yanama, the nearest settlement.

Knowing Mr. Heald's pluck, I felt sure that he could get there if anybody could, but that if he failed the only alternative must be to reconstruct the bridge over the Apurimac. The latter would have been a serious undertaking, as the river is over 200 feet wide and the rapids are strong and very dangerous.

Mr. Heald not only succeeded in reaching Choqquequirau, but visited the place three times, made a passable trail, and was able to conduct thither Dr. Eaton and Dr. Nelson. Their stay was limited by the very great difficulties which they encountered in securing laborers to accompany them, and in carrying sufficient food for themselves and the laborers over the extremely rough country.

A Hard Day's Work

As a sample of the difficulties encountered, let me quote the following from Mr. Heald's account of his first day out from Yanama:

"…After a three hours' climb we reached a spot well above 14,000 feet and had a splendid view of the country. From here I could get an idea of the kind of traveling I would encounter, and it did not look very inviting. Where the jungle was not thick the mountain-sides were steep and rocky. I could see the course of the Apurimac, somewhere near which was Choqquequirau, and the green cane fields in the province of Abancay, on the other side.

"From a purely artistic point of view the country was wonderful, with its splendid ranges of gleaming white peaks all covered by glaciers, and the dark green of the jungle below leading down into straight-sided valleys with streams white with foam running down them. From the point of view of one who had to travel through it for the purpose of getting to a place, location unknown, and making a trail to that place, it was anything but lovely…

"After looking my fill and taking compass readings on Yanama and various prominent points, we started down. There had been condors swinging above us ever since we had reached the high point, and now one flew quite close. I fired at him with the 22 Winchester automatic, and for a moment thought he was going to fall. He recovered his balance, however, and went sailing off; but after traveling about half a mile he suddenly collapsed and fell, turning over and over and over into the brush, where, after quite a hunt, we found him, dead.

"He was a splendid bird, spreading a little over 9 feet 6 inches and measuring 4 feet from bill to tail tip. This shot showed both the hitting power of the little 22 and the wonderful vitality of the condor. The mushroom bullet had gone through breast and breast-bone, lungs, liver, and intestines, lodging against a thigh-bone. Tomás carried the bird back to the hacienda, where the prowess of the little rifle caused much admiration. We took off the skin and spread it to dry on one of the frames built to jerk meat, of which there were several in the yard. Next morning it was nowhere to be seen, and, as the mayor-domo said that it was no use looking for it, I surmised that he knew where it was and agreed with him…"

Trouble With Bears and Jungle Flies

Dr. Eaton's party had some trouble with hungry bears, which broke open a food box and devoured a quantity of precious provisions. These bears belong to the spectacled-bear genus, and, although plentiful in this region, are extremely shy and hard to get a shot at.

The perils of the trail were many, but the most serious handicap, as every explorer has found in this region before, and the most annoying thing they had to endure, was the ever-present swarms of green jungle-flies. Mr. Heald says in his report:

"They are little fellows, but the way they bite is not the least in proportion to their size. Every place they bite they leave a bloodspot the size of a pin-head, and this burns and itches for two or three days. There were swarms of them, and soon we were all swelling. The only thing we could do was to grin and bear it. When we stopped to rest we made a smudge, but while traveling the best we could do was to slaughter as many as we could.

"…With the coming of dark the flies had left us, but they left us in very bad shape. Not a man of us could bend his wrists, they were so swollen: the knuckles on the hands were invisible, and our eyes were mere slits that it cost an effort to open enough to look out of. Still, there was a lot to be thankful for. There was lots of dry wood where we stopped, and we soon had a fire going, which warmed and dried us. The night was clear, so there was no danger of being gotten out of bed by rain. I had shot a jungle duck, and the inner man was perfectly satisfied. What bothered me most was that I was afraid the peons would try to run away, and I very much doubted my ability to carry enough food to enable us to find Choqquequirau without their help…"

The Scarcity of Water and Suffering From Thirst

Their most serious difficulty, however, was the lack of water and the height and steepness of the mountains, which cut them off from any possible water supply. Here is a sample of what they suffered:

"The next morning, when I went to fill my canteen with water, I found that there was none. The men said that they had drunk it, but I felt pretty sure that they had poured it out, believing that then we would have to turn back. I would have done so (though no farther than the spring we had uncovered the day before), but the Director had told me there was a spring easily found at Choqquequirau, and I was confident that we must be near the place.

"In front of us rose a sharp ridge. I was sure that if we gained its top we would see the city on the other side. The fire had cleared the ground, so going was not hard; it had also cleared out the flies. After about two hours of climbing we stood on top of the lowest saddle of the ridge. This had been reached after some rather ticklish cliff-climbing. On looking over the other side we were tremendously disappointed, for instead of a city there was an impassable ravine. All the morning we worked along the knife edge of ravines, hoping that the city would come into view, and always disappointed.

"By noon we had come to where the ridge merged into the mountain proper and were working along its sides. After the stop for lunch the men refused to go any farther. They said if they did it would be merely to die of thirst; that the city of Choqquequirau was non-existent, and that they did not wish to die just because I did.

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