Marcahuasi: Vestiges of a Forgotten Global Civilization, or Just Weird Rocks in Peru?
The world is full of difficult-to-explain wonders. In the last century, archaeologists have discovered many civilizations, such as the Hittites, which were previously not thought to exist. As a result, the discovery of a new civilization has become relatively commonplace today. One supposed example of this is the Marcahuasi rock forest. Within the unusual rock formations, many visitors have claimed to have found what amounts to hundreds of carvings. But many say that they are just the result of natural erosion, meaning one possible explanation of this phenomenon is pareidolia.
One of the first modern explorers to visit Marcahuasi in Peru was the self-styled archaeologist and mystic Daniel Ruzo, who visited the site in 1952. He spent nine years exploring the region and claimed to have found hundreds of human sculptures as well as figurines of animals such as camels, lions, seals, and frogs. He also claimed that some sculptures were made in such a way that they appeared to change their shape at different times of the day and year depending on how they were illuminated.
Impressive Marcahuasi rock formation. ( Emily in Guatemala )
The Masma Civilization
Ruzo also claimed that Marcahuasi had vortices of healing power, making it a deeply spiritual place. He believed that it was built by a civilization called the Masma who, according to Ruzo, once maintained a globe-spanning civilization before they were destroyed in a cataclysm. He used this to explain why some of the figures appeared to imply an origin on different continents - such as animals not native to South America.
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Ruzo’s tale of the Masma civilization has its origins in the beliefs of a Peruvian esotericist by the name of Pedro Astete, who had heard the name in a dream. Ruzo came to believe that the cataclysm that allegedly wiped out the Masma would one day happen again and that it was a part of a cycle spanning thousands of years.
The rock formation known as the "Fortaleza," or fortress, at Marcahuasi. ( Lisa Rome )
Strange Occurrences at Marcahuasi
Since Daniel Ruzo first made these observations in the 1950s, many people have gone to the Marcahuasi rock forest and have claimed to feel a spiritual presence there. Many have also said they experienced out-of-body experiences, visions of ghosts, and even encounters with UFOs. There are many stories of supernatural events involving these mysterious formations.
Although most archaeologists believe them to be natural formations, many fringe theorists and mystics have insisted that the rock formations are artificially modified. Among the more well-known sculptures are the ‘Monument to Humanity’, two statues of queens (one of which is said to be African), and a feature that some believe resembles an Egyptian deity in the form of an anthropomorphic hippopotamus. There is also at least one statue that is said to resemble the face on Mars.
The ‘Monument to Humanity’ rock sculpture at Marcahuasi. ( Lisa Rome )
In addition to statues, explorers of the area say that they have found the remains of office buildings and residences, indicating that it was once a city. There is also a claim of a mummy having been found in the area.
Although this would be definitive proof of a sustained human presence in the area, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that the rock formations are indeed statues or that a city ever existed in the area. No serious archaeological surveys appear to have been done in the area, so it is hard to verify that a mummy was actually found.
Tombs or "chulpas" are still scattered all over the plateau. ( Lisa Rome )
Questioning the Claims
The man who is most often sourced in relation to Marcahuasi is Daniel Ruzo. And his methods don’t appear to have been very rigorous. He was more of a mystic than scientific investigator. Most of the other studies of Marcahuasi suggest that there isn’t any evidence of a large human settlement having ever existed in the area.
If the location had been the site of a city, it is likely the tools, human remains, ornaments, figurines, middens, and other archaeological items would be found. From what can be gathered though, none of the hallmarks of a human settlement have been discovered, with the possible exception of a mummified body. If the rocks are really sculptures, then they are the only evidence of a complex society at Marcahuasi. In fact, this is probably why there hasn’t been much archaeological investigation at the site by mainstream archaeologists; they believe there isn’t much to be found.
Ruined structure at Marcahuasi. ( Rickahontas)
Another problem with the alleged statues is that upon examination it is difficult to tell them apart from natural rock formations that have been eroded. Some people have claimed that the sculptures change their form in different light at different times of the year. At one time of the year a formation might appear to be a frog and at another part of the year it might be a bird. Art is distinguished from nature by how clearly it represents something and is deliberately manufactured. If the form of a sculpture is so open to interpretation, it leaves one to wonder if there is anything there at all and whether these statues are not simply the result of imagination.
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Marcahuasi rock formations. ( Emily in Guatemala )
This leads to another possible explanation for the apparent figures: pareidolia. Pareidolia is a tendency for humans to see patterns that are not really there. This is the reason why people have claimed to have seen things like a face on Mars or the face of Jesus Christ on toast. Our mind tries to make sense of all the sensory stimuli and puts together a pattern that is familiar to us but does not actually exist.
The reason that our brains are wired to see patterns even if they aren’t there is probably because there was no selective advantage against false positives. If a prehistoric human thought he saw a tiger in the grass and didn’t, he would run and still survive even though he was mistaken; whereas someone who wasn’t able to detect a pattern that actually was there, tiger stripes in this case, would be more likely to get eaten.
Because of pareidolia, we must be more careful to make sure that what we see is actually there. If we look long enough, our brain will discern a pattern whether or not one actually exists, especially if we want it to be there. As a result, it is important to be skeptical and discerning when it comes to encountering things in nature that look manmade. Is there a good reason to think it is? Is it likely? If not, it might just be pareidolia.
A carving of a human face or pareidolia at Marcahuasi? ( Aristedes Herrera Cuntii )
Top Image: Marcahuasi rock formations. Source: Emily in Guatemala
By Caleb Strom
“Marcahuasi: Mysteries in Stone” by Lisa Rome. Unicus Magazine. Available at: https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/arqueologia/marcahuasi01.htm
“Mysterious Marcahuasi, Peru – One Of The Greatest Puzzles Of Human Prehistory” (2015). MessagetoEagle.com. Available at: http://www.messagetoeagle.com/marcahuasi-peru-one-of-the-greatest-mysteries-of-human-prehistory/
“The Mystery of Markawasi” by Dr. Robert Schoch (2005). Circular Times. Available at: http://www.robertschoch.net/Mystery%20of%20Markawasi.htm