I wrote this article in late 2010 in portuguese and it was a big hit, today I decided to write it in english and to publish here, hope you guys like it.
I believe that to be a columnist for altamontanha.com and eventually wrtite somthing here at summitpost means more than having vast experience in mountains or high altitude mountains itself. Means to be critical in nature, to be unconditional lover of nature and everything that relates to it, means not only to be a lover of the mountains but all its features and cultural events that involves the imaginary places and its impacts. It means more than to be always on the mountains, above all, to understand the will and our endless passion for freedom that they provide. Of course, this is a personal opinion.
In this new article on our website, I return to the volcanoes subject but under a new perspective. The fascination they cause to human over thousands of years, to think about the reasons why we took the lives of ours offering it to the giant cones, and on archaeological discoveries. After all, every columnist makes use of his particular knowledge to transform your text in readable material, interesting. As a Historian I have the ability to build knowledge and use this as an attraction for my personal passions and put it into words.
This particular theme, I research continually for years. Since my teenage days volcanoes fascinate me as much as big format puzzles. Volcanoes are just one of many ways of demonstrating energy release that nature has, they carry with itselves fury, geology, destruction, but also carry life, prosperity, and believe me, cultural ties.
Most people who have internet available at home do not know the amount of useful information, constructive information that can be drawn from the small screen. Cable TV is not just porn, action, suspense or cartoon network. Indeed, I do not watch these things. I've always been a sponge for information and my favorite channels are Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet and The History Channel obviously (I also love BBC documentary material). These channels are a gold mine for those who like to have knowledge and already have some curiosity. Almost everything I write here can be seen in these channels, almost everything.
Fantastic archaeological discoveries occurring by world and especially in our South America. Some facts and then questions:
1954, mountain case: A mummy of a child of about eight years is found near the Cerro El Plomo (5.424 meters of altitude), in the region of snowy valley of Santiago Chile, the Central Cordillera. The low temperatures have meant a process of natural mummification. It is on display at the Museum of Natural History in Santiago/ Chile. Forensic research determined that the child was drugged with coca and placed in his tomb still alive. After the child fell asleep, slowly frozed. Approximate age: 500 years.
1999, volcano case: Three children were found amazingly preserved at the summit of Llullaillaco volcano, the impresive altitude of 6.739 meters, the seventh highest peak in the Andes. Tests of carbon 14 indicated approximately 500 years old. The low temperatures naturally preserved the bodies, no process of mummification was done (usually in Egypt they used natron for dehydration of the body and internal organs are removed). The mummies were displayed publicly for the first time in 2007 after nearly eight years of study. The three children were part of an expedition to the summit of the volcano where they were sacrificed, and there remained all those years. This volcano was my main goal for this year but due to awful weather conditions on Atacama in 2012, I couldn’t do it. My intention was obviously beyond the summit itself, I wanted to shoot the small ruins that are preserved there for centuries, and the low rate of expeditions to the volcano helps to preserve it.
2004, mountain case: Seven Chinchorro mummies were discovered in Arica, Chile's far northern city. The approximate age of the bodies have been determined to be 3800 years. The resting place of the mummies was near "El Moro", a tourist attraction of the city which I visited in 2007, with amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, the highest point of the coastal town.
2006, volcano case: Eight mummies were discovered near Arequipa, Peru. The volcano is called Ticsio and there were found eight mummies in excellent condition. Virtually unknown, this volcano is located in a district called Andagua which has about 60 small volcanoes that make the place a real moon surface on Earth, like so many others along the entire length of the Andes.
The voluntary and involuntary witness the marks of time and consequent actions of the man who found through archaeological discoveries provide us with many answers, but also fill us with questions. It is natural to continuing curiosity about our ancestors and their customs, their daily lives, beliefs.
The techniques and technologies available for the reconstruction of much of the past of a mummy, we already have. But pay attention, “most”, not all. It is and always will be impossible to reconstruct the purest thoughts that lead a expedition to nearly seven thousand meters high to sacrifice their children, the future of their people, the future of their History. Much of it, we can only wonder but almost nothing can be said for sure.
What made them come to this extreme measure? Were the three children deserving of such physical effort to reach the top of Llullaillaco volcano, one of the greatest of our planet, only to be killed? Were they virgin, thus having the necessary purity that perhaps would satisfy the wishes of his divinity? Was the deity personified by the volcano? Was this indeed a great honor for them, such that they not even question their terrible fate and impending darkness? Are these attitudes a hint of old most primitive South American mountaineer activities (most extreme of course)? Examples of just a few questions I ask myself constantly. The standard that is adopted today is that the great mountains of South America in general represented the living of the gods, so they deserved respect, offerings and sacrifices.
I never found a reference on the format of the pyramids the way I think. Did you guys ever stop to think that maybe the pyramids have this format mimicking volcanoes? They are feared and admired by humans for thousands of years, maybe millions. Sure, not all volcanoes are cone-shaped but is the most "popular" so to speak. When someone says the word "volcano", you will immediately imagine a huge cone exploding and magma comming down from its top, also a big pyroclastic flow. Right? Do the test.
At the base of the Licancabur Volcano at about 4.700 meters high there is Inka ruins. In its crater at 5.900 meters high, there is Inka ruins! It is a dormant volcano, not extinct. Climbers know him well and what is its shape of it as seen from Chile? Perfectly cone shapped. Llullaillaco is also conical, somewhat irregular because of explosions and impressive ancient lava flow visible from above (satellite) that deformed it forever, but even so, its shape is conical. Ruins at more than 6600 meters of altitude! The highest ruins ever found in our planet.
Not long ago, during my last expedition to the Andes in the middle of the project "Work less, live more", Alone I visited the ruins of Tulor village by bicycle, 3.200 years old, at 2.400 meters of altitude in the Atacama desert. The village is shaped like a waning moon turned to have a particular view: The volcanoes of Atacama. From the village you can have an extremely privileged view to at least 15 volcanoes, and in particular highlighted the Licancabur volcano. Coincidence or intentional? I say intentional. See the image bellow, note that there are several of them and almost in the center of the image, Licancabur.
In the same blog post about Tulor village, I said and left more photos of the ruins of Pucara of Quitor, "only" eight centuries old. Ruins built facing the volcanoes on a small hill whose summit reaches an altitude of 2620 meters, Quitor Hill. The position is certainly privileged to military defense, but the view is the same, volcanoes in the front line. Once again, Licancabur stands in the center.
Obviously, my fascination with these huge "pimples on the face of Planet Earth" (as I referred to Tucum Peak that resembles a volcano) is not new.
A little part from my TR:
"I finally arrived at a camp,
Under a burning sun that decided to show up.
It was possible to see Tucum Peak
Mountain easy and of rare beauty.
More like a volcano in the middle of the Sierra
Like a pimple on the face of Planet Earth!"
(it rimes in portuguese)
Human beings, in the most diverse forms, left clues that show their adoration for these huge things and his demonstration of power and fury. As I said in beginning of the article, volcanoes also mean life, since a volcanic eruption brings to the surface of the Earth new land, and when magma is cooled and solidified, it is a very fertile soil. Did the ancients knew it, which could further increase their worship for the volcanoes? I say Yes.
Like I said it is much easier accumulating questions than get answers. The imagination of each one can follow the floating lines of History and of course, reach diverse conclusions. But nothing can change the Historical fact, and the findings undoubtedly will continue over the coming years.
Chilean and Argentine archaeologists know the location of at least another 1000 (one thousand) Inka mummies left by mountains and volcanoes of the Andes, but they looked for older people and respected the local population of each of the potential archaeological sites, and reached an agreement of not to interfere with the locals, not to remove parts and even disclose its location. Unprecedented move in a career as played by prestige as that of Archaeology. This is not speculation, it is a fact. Who knows how long they’ll honor this agreement...
For now, we stand with more questions giving wings to our imagination. I Do not know about you but I have a great fascination for History and the endless questions that makes me create. I move on cultivating my passion for the mountains, the volcanoes and the significance they had in the past of worship, fear and respect.
To this day I reached the top of some volcanoes, and there will be more. I keep intending to get to the top of the Llullaillaco and many others as soon as I have the chance. And when I do and you can be assured that I will, I’ll have the same feeling of personal satisfaction and absolute peace and a deeper sense of witnessing History in the great volcanoes of the Andes, better than that, I'll be free.
Long live to freedom in the mountains! Lon live to History!