Library in Stone: The Ica Stones of Professor Cabrera – Part I

Library in Stone: The Ica Stones of Professor Cabrera – Part I

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In 1961, the Rio Ica burst its banks and flooded parts of the Ocucaje Desert. Was an earthquake responsible for the flood? When the water had retreated, the local farmers inspected the damage. Their meager fields were completely devastated. Where they had been able to farm crops, the thin layer of fertile soil had been washed away entirely. While the native farmers walked across the land they made an astonishing discovery: the powers of nature had unearthed rocks of varying sizes, which had for a long time been lying in the bone-dry ground. The river had probably polished the stones for eons.

The Rio Ica during a dry spell, 1999.

The Rio Ica during a dry spell, 1999. ( Public Domain )

The engraved stones were smooth, rounded, grey Andesite, which is a very hard rock. This property makes Andesite the preferred material to pave plazas. Because of its outstanding ability to withstand weathering, and its particular hardness, it is ideal for road building.

And yet, the Ica stones with their peculiar engravings were of Andesite. Because of their hardness, they would actually not be the first choice for any artist to create thousands upon thousands of carved works of art. The impoverished farmers were delighted at their finds, and sold the works of arts to tourists. The entrepreneurial locals made the engravings popular as ‘Inca Art’.

Ica Stones

Ica Stones (© Walter Langbein)

Plundering the Dead

The busy stone merchants were certainly aware of one thing: if the engraved stones were genuine archaeological finds, then they were guilty twice over for infringing the prevailing law. To plunder archaeological sites and sell prehistoric finds was strictly prohibited—if one was no archaeologist. They were certainly not permitted to send such artifacts out of the country. Peru’s prehistoric legacy belongs to Peru, and must not be sold abroad.

And so, the local inhabitants went out at night, searching for engraved stones. They were no longer satisfied with simply picking them off the ground. They had begun to systematically dig. They weren’t new to it. Agriculture had for centuries produced less than meager yields, and grave robbing was much more lucrative. Veritable armies—so Professor Javier Cabrera Darquea informed me—went on their way, especially during clear, starry nights.

There would always be a find: textiles, among other things, from pre-Inca times, which the dry desert ground had preserved astonishingly well. The grave robbers systematically searched for, found and plundered tombs that also dated from pre-Inca times. They wore amulets during their work, to protect them from the wrath of the spirits of the dead. During their nightly activities the raiders were less afraid of the police, but all the more of the dead, for they were robbed of their grave goods.

Prehistoric Carvings?

In 1966, Professor Cabrera received one such carved stone as a birthday present. In the same year, Santiago Agurto Calvo, an architect, carried out archaeological excavations in Ica. He repeatedly unearthed engraved stones. Calvo became convinced that the engravings originated from artists of pre-Inca times. He tried in vain to arouse the interest of mainstream archaeology for the mysterious finds.

Prof. Cabrera explaining his collection.

Prof. Cabrera explaining his collection. (© Walter-Jörg Langbein)

Professor Cabrera continuously received engraved stones, especially from people who were grateful that he had helped them without asking payment for his services. Soon, the famous son of the town of Ica developed a genuine passion for collecting. Over the years, the hundreds of engraved drawings grew to thousands. Professor Javier Cabrera Darquea, who gave lectures at the Universidad Nacional San Luis Gonzaga soon realized that, aside from the plain, geometrical designs, the images depicted plants and animals from prehistoric times. There were clearly identifiable saurians that had been carved into the stone surfaces.

Some stones feature saurian-like creatures.

Some stones feature saurian-like creatures. (© Walter Langbein)

 How were pre-Inca people supposed to have known what dinosaurs looked like? And even more fantastical is this thought: the artists who created an inestimable number of images portrayed human beings and dinosaurs as contemporaries. Other stones featured complicated medical procedures, even heart transplants and caesarean operations! [Read: Professor Cabrera’s Cabinet of Horrors: Secret Chambers and Shocking Artifacts with Controversial Origins]

The Library in Stone

I repeatedly visited the museum in Ica. Professor Cabrera was always exceedingly helpful. I came to the realization that the dismissive attitude of orthodox science annoyed and aggrieved him. He frequently voiced his outrage at the refusal of mainstream scientists to acknowledge as genuine the library in stone. “One is able to read the engraved stones like a book!” the argumentative museum director emphatically reiterated.


In the first photo, the being resembling a human has six fingers. Now I'm off to look at more Ica stones to see if it is a trend.

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