Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The photographer

Marcahuamachuco - David Almeida, Lima Peru

As I read through the Anecdotes I was struck by the dveloping picture of this band of brothers; their unique individual characters and the bonds that formed as they travelled the length and breadth of the country, working, eating and sleeping together.

In June 1937 Tello took off to explore Peru's northern coastal river valleys and the upper Marañon river basin. The expedition was to become one of the team's most important scientific endeavours, taking a total of six months and yielding a wealth of discoveries, all logged and illustrated by Hernan.

On the way back they stopped off at a hacienda just outside Chilia in the morthwestern highlands. By this time the expedition was reduced to a small core group and it's not entirely clear who the bumbling protagonist of this tale of manners is. But Hernan has some wickedly ironic fun describing ...

The photographer
In which it becomes apparent that archaeologists are not always good diplomats

We arrived in Yanasara, by car from Huamachuco, after having crossed the river Marañón in a basket sling bridge. Three days on horseback out of Yanasara, and we arrived at La Deliciana hacienda. 

Tello (right) and his assistant Mejia Xesspe crossing the Marañón.
 Hernan is seated behind, wearing his distinctive hat.

We were relieved to get to the property which was situated high up in the hills. We had no desire to spend the night further down in the muggy, hot air of the valley. It wasn’t the heat that worried us so much, as the fact that the valley lay in a zone well known for the virulent and debilitating ‘verruga’ disease. 

The clock showed five thirty in the afternoon when we finally arrived at the house and the owner a very nice elderly lady welcomed us. Whilst she sent the servants to prepare our rooms and food for us, her daughter, who was also very gracious and a fine looking young woman conversed intelligently with Tello about the local archeological features.

The most interesting of these were two pumas, the Chilia monoliths. We already knew of them and in fact that was where we were headed. Happily, the felines in question were close by, indeed only metres away, and we set off directly to see them.
 fig 1

Truly they were two fascinating stones, almost sculpted in aspect. The figures seemed to leap vigorously from the stone where they had been worked and, as the matching pair had been placed on each side of the vestibule of the property’s chapel, they seemed to be looking at each other.

                                                         fig 2     
  Hernan's drawing of one of the Chilia Pumas ( fig 3) 
I should mention that, apart from Tello, after our thousand and one adventures, there were only three surviving members of the expedition: Mejía Xesspe, Pedro Rojas and myself.  

Well, the archaeologist stood admiring the figures and urged one of us, who shal remin nameless, to take some photographs, taking advantage of the fact that the rain had stopped and there was still some afternoon light.

“And take one of the young lady too,” added Tello whilst our colleague in question prepared the camera.

“Oh no, doctor,” she replied, smiling, “Thank you I’m sure, but I would spoil your photograph.”

“Nonsense, my dear,” replied Tello.

Both stood there politely resolute, she refusing and Tello insisting that she at least let them take one of her standing next to one of the pumas.

The ‘photographer’, I still don’t want to name names, was ready with his camera and attempting to intervene in favour of his boss, he brushed aside the young lady’s protestations that she would spoil the picture.

“Oh don’t worry about that señorita we can always touch it up later!”

                                   fig 4
fig. 1   Arqueología de Cajamarca: Expedición al Marañón -1937 by Julio C Tello (Obras completas Vol 1) p. 298                
fig. 2  as above  p. 299  
fig. 3  as above  p. 297 
fig. 4  as above p. 342 

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