For the original peoples, rockart was a tool for communication, a way to transfer ideas, experiences and convictions, a way to reaffirm their own and to participate in other groups of that message put in the immensity of the landscape with the intention aware, that they will last in physical space and time.
In turn, it was a way of intervening territorially, especially when we understand the nomadic condition of its producers, making reference to its inter-related actions related to space: in territorial exploration, in the search for material resources and in ritualization in The geographical spaces.
Therefore, the human figure in rock art cannot be interpreted as an illustrative representation, it is much more than that. The worldview of the South American native peoples includes animated beings and inanimate elements, all of them forming part of an integrated whole that carries the character of sacred.
The human being was understood within that whole. That sacredness was rooted in the naturalistic and mystical thinking of the people that also hierarchized and deeply respected the characters of power within the community.
This hierarchy is evident in all rock art. Thus, certain human figures have the schematic simplicity and smaller sizes compared to those that show the attributes of power, differing both in the set.
But whatever its appearance, the human figure, in rock art, is always based on an idea conceived by the naturalistic thinking of the original peoples who considered those of their kind a part in nature and not the axis of the system; which is the most widespread conception in our western and contemporary thinking.
Human figure: hierarchical attributes.
In Mendoza, they are chronologically attributed to the period between 400 and 600 years and are culturally associated with the Ovalle style of the Valley of Enchantment in Chile and the culture of El Molle (300 BC-700 AD). This, at later times, would be associated with the Aguada income and would result from an incorporation given by farming groups in the area, which allows us to propose a temporary projection until 900.
The rock manifestations have received different interpretations, predominantly those that emphasize the role associated with shamanic practices. In Mendoza, within the anthropic manifestations, those that refer to heads and mascariforms stand out, which by stylistic association allowed them to be linked culturally and chronologically, but that at the interpretative level led to postulate the representation of experiential experiences of ceremonies where the human head stood out as the center of power and possessor of special forces. These images would be enhanced as a result of experiences derived from the use of hallucinogenic substances, which, by altering the senses, would favor images in a trance state.
But the manifestations, along with representations of subjective experiences, are executed in an environmental context, resulting in their application, usually in stream headwaters, and pointing out their link with “passage rituals” from one place to another, as synonymy from one state to another, from one form of existence to another. Thus, the figures, as signifiers of subjective experiences, are understood in a context of social practices, where identities are constructed through such experiences, but shared around landscape referents. Landscapes that make sense from their materiality (geographical) but in a timeless (immaterial) linked to mythical times, further away from vital chronologies and associated with times that subsume present and past in the experience of the ritual, without referents of beginning and end clear. (Chiavazza 2012).
Representation of the human figure
The human figure is more frequent in the north of the region. In almost all cases they are recorded although we also see it painted, as in the peach eaves in San Rafael. The representation of some parts of the body is very frequent. In Malargüe the body appears but without head or heads without the body and also the imprint of the human foot. Other figures move away from a realism and become a different scheme in which the human figure is transformed into a symbolic element, for example the drawing of the head with upper and lower limbs - without the torso - with appendages that start from the same in radial form or with ornamentations in the superior part, as it is the case of the paintings of Los Morrillos and in the Colorados of San Juan and Tundunqueral, in the north of Mendoza. With variants, the head alone is presented with cephalic attributes or the head with ornamentations and the lower limbs (Tundunqueral, Mendoza and Los Colorados, San Juan). These designs were linked to the tiaras or mascariform heads of the Northern Chilean Boy.
Frequently the characters in rock art are accompanied by birds, felines, snakes and other animals that occupy primary places in the graphic set makes us think that they played an important role in their lives and were part of their rituals. The characters are also seen carrying camelids on a rope, or their stumps or pregnant females, which shows their status as hunter gatherers and the preponderance of these animals in obtaining resources.
The rock, in many cases, is part of the composition and the landscape participates as the setting for the unifying mother earth of "everything." This can be seen in some creations in which engraving and support make up the design, as is the case of the mascariform figure of Painted Stones in San Juan in which the oval shape of rock constitutes the contour of the mascariform.
Mascariformes: Painted Stones, San Juan. El Morro, Southern Mendoza.
Also in Alumbrera in San Juan, where the zigzagging line seems to reproduce the course of the river seen from the site and also the human figures are "standing" in a row on the edge of the rock.
Human figures "standing" on the edge of the block. San Juan.
The prototype of the human figure is founded on geometry and synthesis. The line is the recurring resource for these representations, sometimes the complete or partial filling technique has been used but it is not the most frequent. In many cases, eyes and mouth are included but the expression of affections on the face is rare.
Hands and feet with details are not visualized and the body, according to the hierarchy, is only a stroke or shows the clothing. The explicitly feminine figure is not common although in Río Castaño in San Juan, we find a figure with the breasts discovered while the male representation with its visible sex is very frequent. It is interesting to perceive the postural attitudes of the human figure in rock art. It is usually seen from the front and static but there are numerous representations of the character in an attitude of dance, career, with arms raised, carrying camelids with a rope, with one leg raised, with open arms in cross, etc. . What makes an active role explicit, a dynamic function to the character even when it is static, since that position was intentionally chosen before any other.
Human figure: dynamic attitude.
Surely, the compositional order in rock art must respond to an intention linked to the statement. The sets of motifs are grouped under an apparent chaos, however we cannot forget that in any composition, the location of each element has a / justification based on the reading of the visual language and is linked in turn, to the body scheme, to the motor skills of the human being and, in the case of prehistoric naturalism, in the observation of nature.
The scale and proportions are also related to the above, In general, in Whose the measurements of each graphic unit do not exceed 50 cm, while in other regions the dimensions over pass the natural size as is the case of geoglyphs and some paintings from the north of Chile, where the opening of the geographical space is enormous and the over-dimension is justified.
Human figure. Characters.
In Cuyo rock art, the lower-ranking characters are smaller and without elements in their heads. They are usually recorded linearly and occupy secondary locations in the set. Those of greater hierarchy have very varied attributes. You can see them with oversized eyes, or with a large head, expressive resource that is repeated in the northern part of the Cuyana region. Others, with extensions in the head - lines that arise as rays or antennas - that may indicate modified states of consciousness or trance or connection with the spirits as indicated by the shamanic theory applied to rock art, as well as the cane - symbol of power - It is one of the most representative elements of the hierarchy.
While there are representations that have certain similarities to each other. They look like adopted models or copies of others taken as an example. However, each drawing has its own certain features that exhibit the creative intention of its author. There is definitely no identical figure to another. This shows us that rock art was not made to achieve an aesthetic, however each artist knew how to make their mark creating their art in their own original way.