Humans have expressed themselves through artistic representation for thousands of years. Throughout the world, animals, humans, spiritual beings and the natural environment have been painted on walls of caves since the earliest beginnings of mankind. Several caves with painted representations have been discovered in Peru, some dating back 12,000 years. Cave paintings in Peru are called “quilcas” in Quechuan.
These pictographs date as far back as the Paleolithic Period, when hunter-gatherers moved from place to place throughout the year hunting wild game and living on the plants that grew wild throughout the Amazon rainforest and Andes Mountains. These people used stone tools to hunt and had not yet learned to domesticate plants for year-round use. The cave paintings depict this lifestyle, with drawings of puma, vicuña, guanaco, fox, deer and other wild animals that inhabited the area at the time.
The paintings also depict humans as hunters. Humans are represented as stylized and geometric figures. Other motifs include wavy lines, lines of dots, figures superimposed on one another and an assortment of weapons. The paintings provide an insight into human social organization, hunting techniques and the natural environment. These representations show the close affiliation of humans to their environment.
The more than 10,000 quilcas in the Toquepala cave near Tacna in southern Peru, dated to 7,600 B.C., depict vivid scenes of hunters forming human rings around the prey to trap and catch or kill them. Toquepala lies at almost 9,000 feet above sea level in the western Andes. Vilavilani cave in the same area shows similar scenes that may date to the same period. These figures are painted in bright hues of red, orange, yellow, brown, green, black and white. These colors are made from a variety of sources, including plants that were also important ancient Peruvian food items to these nomadic people.
Another important pictograph site is situated at 14,000 feet above sea level within the Vilcabamba Archaeological Park near Choquequirao. More than 100 drawings of human-like figures, geometric motifs and representations of animals are found on 16 panels on a limestone outcrop. Archeologists are studying the drawings to determine their age and cultural affiliation.
The fine art of food preparation continues at La Costanera Restaurant. A variety of fresh native Peruvian foods are prepared daily. Chili peppers from the chef’s own garden echo the greens, yellows and reds in the ancient cave paintings. Delicate pinks of fresh seafood are highlighted by purple and white hues of onion and radish in the signature dishes of Chef Carlos Altamirano. Enjoy the vibrant flavors of the Amazon at this Peruvian restaurant near San Francisco.