2000-Year-Old Monolith Reveals Hidden Symbols in Amazon
A 2000-year-old jungle monolith decorated with circles, spirals and feline fangs has been 3D scanned in its remote Peruvian location.
Situated in a remote jungle valley in northern Peru, the carved stone was known by locals and a handful of explorers, but now it’s been formally 3D scanned revealing its hidden designs. The stone was scanned by Jason Kleinhenz, an application engineer at Exact Metrology, who according to Live Science said the patterns are “abstract and ornate and hard to describe in words.” But among them he found a circle with a hole in its center and a series of straight lines radiating outwards and two fangs from a feathered feline god.
A close-up image of one of the carvings on the Peruvian monolith that was 3D scanned. The engraving has a hole in the centre and lines radiating from the circle. (Daniel Fernandez-Davila / Exact Metrology)
Transporting A Peruvian Monolith Through the Jungle
To get to the monolith, Jason Kleinhenz said his team departed Leymebamba, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Chachapoyas in the northern Peruvian region of Amazonas, in the valley of the Utcubamba River. Ascending from 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) up to 13,000 feet (4,000 meters), with their an Artec 3D scanner, outside a remote village they found the monolith covered in undergrowth. Weighing about a ton, 2.5 feet tall by 10 feet wide by 5 feet long (0.8m by 3m by 1.5 m), the large lump of sedimentary rock was not sourced locally and must have been transported with ropes, and a lot of hauling through the thick jungles to its location.
The aim to the study was to recreate the monolith's carvings, which were endanger of erosion. The archaeologist Daniel Fernandez-Davila said that when the team reached the monolith, they suspected its ancient carvings might have completely eroded away. However, patches of the monolith’s carvings were still just visible to the eye and the 3D scanner captured details such as the fangs from a “feline feathered figure.” The presence of this figured god tells the archaeologists that the carvings were executed during the formative period, between 200 BC and AD 200, at a time when no writing system existed in Peru.
Archaeologists scan the Peruvian monolith for research. (Daniel Fernandez-Davila / Exact Metrology)
A Very Important And Sacred Place
In the past, Fernandez-Davila worked with the InkaNatura, a nonprofit tour operator, on shows for the Travel Channel and the BBC. According to the archaeologist the carved feline figure is “iconic” of the formative period, and he suspects the other carved symbols are all probably associated with this particular deity. Moreover, Fernandez-Davila thinks the entire jungle valley where the monolith is situated was perhaps “a very important and sacred place,” an idea which is supported by the presence of two Inca baths not far from the carved monolith.
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A 3D scan of the Peruvian monolith is shown in light green contrast. The contrast allows details to be seen that were harder to make out in the monolith’s true color. (Daniel Fernandez-Davila / Exact Metrology)
The early Northern cultures of modern-day Peru were agricultural, and they observed the stars and climate patterns to predict impending changes before they occurred, and animal groups represented three primary levels in Andean agri-cosmology. Birds in the sky represented the upper world where the gods resided and took action. The feline dominated the Earthly plane, the here and now, and reptiles who were seen emerging from beneath rocks and from caves represented the subterranean underworld of death. Thus, from patiently observing their environments, Pre-Columbian Peruvian societies reached an exceptional level of sculptural quality, as is evident in this newly scanned monolith.
The above scan of the Peruvian monolith but now seen in its true color. (Daniel Fernandez-Davila / Exact Metrology)
Solar Hearts, Feline Souls
The carved fangs represent a mystical animal: half feline and half bird. Being a strong, brave and cunning predator, the feline was one of the most important symbolic religious figures in the cultures of the Northern territories. It was often associated with agricultural fertility and the supply of water, as the animal comes from the fertile and water abundant Amazon.
Feline symbology advanced with the rise of the Inca and their capital city, Cusco. It was laid out in the shape of a puma whose body is formed by the rivers Tulumayo and Huatanay, and its tail was where both rivers meet. The head of the puma was the fortress of Sacsahuaman and its heart was the Huacapata , or holy plaza of the Coricancha or Temple of the Sun, the spiritual and administrative centre of the entire Inca empire, all fused together within a vast feline shaped city.
While Fernandez-Davila’s accurate 3D model of the carved monolith is indeed impressive, it is only phase one of his research as he is planning to conduct an extensive archaeological examination of the entire sacred-area sometime in the future.
By Ashley Cowie