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Mile long band of mysterious and unexplained holes in Pisco Valley – Peru. (CC BY 3.0). Inset:  An artistic impression defining 11 pictographs and 22 characters composing just a 200 meters length of the "Band of Holes'.

The Mysterious Holes of Peru: A Pre-Columbian Domestic Water Source for Trans-Oceanic Travelers? Part II

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Read Part I

In Part I Ancient Origins Guest Writer, William James Veall discussed why he believes his research has uncovered a viable solution to the long term "Mystery of the Peruvian Holes" - a band of some 7000 pits carved into a 20-meters-wide chain of porous limestone stretching north-south for almost a mile across the Cajamarquilla Plain above the small township of Humay, Peru, South America.

William Veall maintains that the band of holes served as a pre-Columbian rainwater collection and filtration system capable of supplying a stock of year-round, fresh, clean water, not only for domestic and horticultural use by the local community but, as his research seems to suggest, by Trans-Oceanic Traders in transit from the Mediterranean Region.  Equally fascinated by the unique artistic embellishment carved along the 'Band of Holes', William decided to investigate.

Part II: Firstly, let me take you back to a comment I placed on the Viewzone website " The Mysterious Holes of Peru", a few years ago, and I quote:

These long lengths of ‘holes’ are the product of a 'Linear Inscriptive Art Form' whereby characters are formed by a series of  linked holes 'pecked' into the surface of natural rock (subtractive) or by the converse- additive- whereby small rocks / stones are piled into small heaps on a level surface, of course, to create and represent characters or pictorials. (Veall 2002. Nasca Lines)
In my opinion and from research I carried out in 2004 on an aerial photograph of another Peruvian site; these very lengthy pictorial inscriptions may document historical facts; dates, voyages, conquests, dedications, provenance etc. Anticipate a date circa 800 - 600B.C. We must await the hand of the Epigrapher.

But, it was while surfing the "Band of Holes" using the Google Earth remote satellite that I made a completely 'mind blowing' discovery. Along one particular section of the honeycomb of cells  (Stage 1 photo) I noticed quite distinctly that the very obvious geometric pattern of the holes had somehow diffused to form what could be hieroglyphs interspersed with some inscriptive characters; this, to say the least, was a massive surprise and totally unexpected.

The three stages that led to revealing the secret of the "Mysterious Holes of Peru"

The original remote satellite photograph captured by Google Earth

Stage 1  The original remote satellite photograph captured by Google Earth, 8/10/2006 at an Eye Altitude of 266metres (800 feet). Latitude 13º 42’ 23.18”S   Longitude 75º 52’ 28.44”W.

Patiently overprinting the  satellite photograph, archaeologist William J. Veall was able to make the historic breakthrough which he claims helped to solve the mystery of Peru's infamous "Band of Holes'".

Stage 2 Patiently overprinting the  satellite photograph, archaeologist William J. Veall was able to make the historic breakthrough which he claims helped to solve the mystery of Peru's infamous "Band of Holes'". Copyright William J Veall 7/2010

An artistic impression of Stage 2 clearly defining the 11 pictographs and 22 characters composing just a 200 meters length of the "Band of Holes'.     

Stage 3  An artistic impression of Stage 2 clearly defining the 11 pictographs and 22 characters composing just a 200 meters length of the "Band of Holes'.  Copyright William J. Veall. 7/2010

Taking the Stage 3 illustrations and beginning from the right;  there is a very obvious 'flower' form followed by a gap of, as yet, unidentified imagery; this is followed by another almost identical 'flower' bordering the head of an feline, perhaps a lioness —similar to the 'Greek' image I discovered within the Nasca Lines. The last image is an arch-like construction. Immediately below this section is a feline image (perhaps a wild-cat?) next to another 'flower'. Ancient characters also appear at intervals along this section.

The left section, right hand side, commences with a rather indistinct human head marked with an 'A' character. Separated by a row of three 'holes' is an absolutely incredible image. The semi-profile of, what I interpret to be, the head of a black African with his feathered tribal insignia. Next, set within a cartouche of 15 'holes' is the head of a creature (deer or eagle) set upon a row of three 'holes'; this so reminds me of an Aztec date sign.

Finally, separated by a row of four 'holes', is a human head inscribed on the neck with a character 'A'. Immediately below, that is, not on the band of Holes itself, are two faint impressions, a Gorgon and a bird-like image much like a Harpy Eagle. Ancient script characters also appear along this section.

It appears that the sculptors had actually used a subtle technique of light and shadow to convert a petroglyphic image into a pictograph when observed at the correct angle and orientation.  Although I was able to achieve a somewhat similar effect by manipulating the Google Earth navigation tool, it will be necessary to carry out a quite complex series of observations to determine if the ancient artisans utilized solar or lunar shadow casting, or both. And, was the time of year and the corresponding shadow movement along the chain important?

Right at the start we have a very slim clue. Quite by chance, I had recorded the actual satellite pictures transmitted during October 2006. As far as I can tell from cycling the Google Earth ‘ Historical’ cursor, no other time phase repeats absolutely identical photographs. Hypothetically, therefore, October 2006 was one perfect moment when the embellishment became visible - providing one was observing from an altitude of some 266 meters, about 800 feet above ground level (Google Earth Eye altitude figures). It may be pure coincidence or deliberate intention but the end of October and first week of November turns out to be the locally anticipated start of the rainy season (after Aveni) when the catchment 'holes' will once again be filled with fresh, clean rainwater to feed the subterranean aquifers and ‘puquios’. This happens about midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

I am at a loss to understand how the ancient sculptors could pre-determine and create the 'pixilation' effect of the water cells from ground level when the resulting imagery only becomes properly visible at a thousand feet above ground level. Here, it is important to mention that the Google Earth layers have considerably changed since 2006 so readers might have difficulty obtaining my original pictures - in fact at the time I recorded very few myself because the 'holes' did not figure in my current research. Only much later did I recognize the import of this capture because back in the late 1990’s I had discovered a trapezoid on the nearby Socos Pampa which had a very similar combination of hieroglyphs and inscriptions.  Was it the same people, I wondered? 

An original Google Earth satellite photograph taken over the southern extremity of Peru's "Band of Holes".                                         

Figure 1  An original Google Earth satellite photograph taken over the southern extremity of Peru's "Band of Holes".  The flare caused by the fortunate over-exposure by the satellite cameras clearly indicates holes.  Latitude 13º 43’ 01”S Longitude 75º 52’ 31”W. Figure 2 The original Fig 1 photograph identifying and proving the presence of inscriptive material. Google Earth/Copyright William J Veall 7/2010.
Figure 3  The original Google Earth satellite photograph taken over a section of the "Band of Holes" at Latitude 13º 42 ’55"S Longitude 75º 52’ 27”W.
Figure 4 Identical to Fig 3, but showing the disposition of inscriptive material. Google Earth/Copyright William J Veall. 7/2010

Many of the characters I have randomly exposed along the chain appear to be Phoenician in style.  If true, the feature may not be earlier than the 12th century BC,  i.e. the historically accepted date the Phoenician alphabet was invented and subsequently went on to become the international Mercantile Trading script. That said, I cannot make a carte blanche case because some symbols appear to be hieroglyphic; this would point to a date closer to 2500 - 2000 BC. A small number of characters embedded within the regalia are from the 1850 BC, proto-Sinaitic stage of 'writing' which actually replaced the rather cumbersome and inconvenient hieroglyphics as a communication language. 

I am afraid I do not have a practical answer to this strange, conjoint mix of hieroglyphs and characters, except that the presence of proto-Siniatic interspersed with hieroglyphics suggests the emigrants had not reached the stage of communicating via the later ‘international’ Phoenician alphabet, therefore, the very earliest mean average date of construction might lie somewhere between 2000 BC and 1850 BC.

This is a very difficult mystery to solve because we do not know the non-communicative time lapse between leaving the African Continent and the voyagers’ actual arrival date into the Pisco Valley. But, note how closely the hypothesized construction date, based upon the inscriptive material inscribed within the Band of Holes, ( 2500 - 2000 BC) aligns with the re-commencement of desertification in the third millennium BC.

The "Mysterious Holes of Peru" are undoubtedly destined to become a prime example of an ancient peoples’ technical and artistic expertise imported into South America from the Mediterranean Region. On the one hand, sometime after arrival, the emigrants had, perhaps of necessity, created a simplistic, economical, non-labor intensive, water collection and filtration system. Had desertification already begun across the Plains of Nasca before these emigre's arrived?

On the other hand, the conquerors could not resist ring-fencing their newly discovered 'kingdom', and so left a secretive artistic record of their visitation by embellishing the whole chain with elaborate imagery and inscriptions which, quite frankly, I am still finding difficult to comprehend technically. How incredibly exciting if a large tranche of funding could be put in place to attempt a transliteration of the whole Band of Holes!

While it needs the hand of the expert epigrapher to translate their meaning, many of the characters along the strip point strongly to a Phoenician presence and we also know the Phoenicians left their trademark a short distance away within the Nasca Lines, by way of the huge third to fourth century BC inscription I uncovered, and which was translated, in 2002.

Unlike other rather nebulous theories imaginatively invented to explain the purpose of the “Mysterious Holes of Peru”; my hypothesis can be fully tested scientifically and epigraphically, and in my humble opinion, I have no doubt that the outcome will add considerably to the prehistory of Peru itself and in turn strengthen the case for diffusion between the two great continents of Africa and pre-Columbian South America.

Featured image: Mile long band of mysterious and unexplained holes in Pisco Valley – Peru. (CC BY 3.0). Inset:  An artistic impression defining 11 pictographs and 22 characters composing just a 200 meters length of the "Band of Holes'.  Copyright William J. Veall. 7/2010

Images provided by William James Veall unless otherwise noted.

By William James Veall



I would certainly support any notion about these hole that is water related. These holes would make perfect recharge pits to allow perculation downhill and preserving water. In fact the whole ridge adjacent is covered with these shallow pits. A further 465m east there are larger pits on the ridge and 365m on the whole mountain is covered with terraces with some larger rectangular basins. These terraces required an order og magnitude more work than the holes, and yet it is not noted anywhere. It is only recently that modern man realized the significance of water harvesting. Very clever of these early dwellers. What is more is that just south of the band of hole and terraces the desert turns green. Best viewed in 4/2010 Google imagery. Coordinates of terraces: 13 42 43.44S, 75 52 9.77W.

We do not know what the climate was like in those days but judging by the topography, there were significant river flows in the region. Those early dwellers might have noticed a climate change and understood what it spells so in desperation these water capturing devices were created to extend habitibility of the area.

I saw some pictures of robber holes blanketing a large area of desert in Egypt recently and one of the comments referred to the interesting similarity to the group of holes in the above article. (I totally agreed!)

I read this article completely about the comparison of
newest and previous technologies, it's amazing article.

William James Veall's picture

Some ‘holes’ were intentionally larger than others; these were the primary collector/filters.

The smaller, shallow ‘indents’ would,of course, equally collect water but were ‘artistically’ sized and arranged to create the individual regalia and inscriptive material.

Scientific evidence now confirms that by the end of the 3rd Millenium BC desertification had recommenced across the Atacama region. Any aerial photograph will show that the entire region around the “Band of Holes” is devoid of vegetation, therefore, the region was most unlikely to have been forested when the feature was constructed.

A scientic investigation confirms there was no artifactual evidence in ANY kind of the 7000 or so cavities; this rules out mineral ores.

Sorry, I have no knowledge whether stone quarrying took place in the Pisco Valley.  

Thank you for your interesting questions.


I am not a specialist, but I have questions about the hypotheses of (1) the mysterious hole in a filter system or (2) art works. If the hypothesis (1) is case, why ancient people did not dig the bigger holes. For hypothesis (2), I am not sure in the time ancient people lived, the valley might be covered by forests or not. If it was covered by forests, it was a very difficult task for designing the symbols.

In addition, if soil (rock) in the holes contain minerals, whether they dug follow seams to make holes in different sizes. Also, is it possible that ancient people quarried stones in the valley and transported to another place?.


William James Veall's picture

William James Veall

William James Veall was educated at the Queen Mary Grammar School, Basingstoke, UK. Studied engineeering at the Basingstoke and Southampton Colleges of Technology, and read Environmental Science, Archaeology and Spanish at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

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