Saturday, 3 October 2015

Casma ('s) bull

Tello’s 1937 expedition to explore the Upper Marañon river basin and Peru’s northern coastal valleys was aimed at uncovering evidence that the Andean Chavín culture had spread to the coastal plain and influenced later civilizations there.

An enormous mound, Sechín Alto, in the Casma Valley just over 300km north of Lima had always been visible from the roadway. But an unexpected discovery close by was to lead Tello and his team to stay far longer in the valley than originally planned.

fig. 1

The locals led them to a place they knew as el Indio Bravo, so called because of a human face carved on a large rock there. As it turned out this face was only part of a stone that was still three quarters buried underground. Tello was eventually to discover over ninety more, and the Cerro Sechín temple is now famous for the monolithic façade that he uncovered and Hernan sketched.  

The huge stones depict warrior like figures carrying clubs or staffs, surrounded by naked victims and their severed body parts. The Sechín complex forms today one of the largest and most ancient monumental sites in Peru.  

Local tomb raiders as always played their part in the discoveries. Tello seems to have taken a pragmatic approach to these huaqueros. He understood that, whilst he fought against the destruction they wrought, he was also reliant on them to lead him to new sites.

But the relationship didn’t always yield results.

Casma (’s) bull
In which an enterprising huaquero excites some interest

We had been in Casma for several weeks, and by now a large amount of monoliths had been discovered in the Temple of Sechín that we had unearthed. Tello, worked from six to six, and had filled four volumes of notes on these remarkable discoveries. One day, as we were about to start work, it was evident he was itching to share some potentially exciting news with me.