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Home » , , , , » The representation of human figures in the rock art of the Cuyo region.

The representation of human figures in the rock art of the Cuyo region.

For the original peoples, rock art 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.

The representation of human figures in the rock art of the Cuyo region.


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.
Read also: The lonely Pucará de Hualco, a city of stone, more than a thousand years old.
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.

Cuyana region.


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.
Human figure: hierarchical attributes.

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.

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2 comments:

  1. To the northwest of the province of Santa Cruz, on the Cañada of the Pinturas River, the full steppe of Argentine Patagonia, is one of the most important rock art manifestations in the world. It is the Cueva de las Manos, declared by Unesco Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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    1. The sectors with the most outstanding paintings are located on the right bank approximately 88 meters above the river level, covering a front of more than 600 meters.

      These depict different hunting scenes, hand negatives, animal motifs, and abstract figures.

      In the Pinturas River Basin several archaeological sites are located on both banks, these are the evidence of a comprehensive occupation of the area by hunter-gatherers over 9000 years.

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