The Pusharo Petroglyphs


The dense jungles of the Amazon basin hide many secrets. Until recently, Amazonian peoples were thought to have lived in the same semi-nomadic manner as some Amazonian people in remote regions to this day. This idea was supported by the apparent lack of large archeological sites in the Amazon basin but that started to change when roads and other evidence of extensive structures were discovered as forest was removed in some regions of Brazil. 


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Hidden Deep In The Amazon Jungle


Given the dense nature of the Amazon rainforest and the difficulties associated with carrying out archeological exploration in the jungle, who knows what other ruins, sites, and even cities might be hidden beneath the forest?


One site that did not escape detection is also one of the largest petroglyph sites in the Amazon jungle. This site is known as “Pusharo” and includes rock art that reaches 9 feet (3 meters) in height along the base of a rock wall around 100 feet (30 meters) long and 75 feet (25 meters) high.


It appears that a rubber tapper on an Indian raid in 1909 may have been the first non-native to encounter the petroglyphs, with the next visit having been made by a Dominican missionary, Vicente Cenitagoya, in 1921.


A smattering of adventurers began to arrive at the site in the 1950s, and in 1969 the site was visited by the Peruvian physician/explorer Dr. Carlos Neuenschwander Landa (who would return in later years accompanied by Peruvian explorer, Sr. Santiago Yábar).


In 1970 another peripatetic Dominican, Padre Adolfo Torrealba, reached the site, followed by Japanese explorer Yoshiharo Sekino, and the French-Peruvian explorers Herbert and Nicole Cartagena in 1978.


Two years later came the Peruvian archaeologist Federico Kauffmann Doig.


In 1991 the party of North American explorer Gregory Deyermenjian, including Peruvian explorer Paulino Mamani and the previously mentioned Santiago Yábar, arrived at Pusharo. The site has since been visited and studied by rock art scholar Rainer Hostnig.


In 2008, it was the subject of a documentary-trek filmed for the BBC television series Extreme Dreams presented by Ben Fogle.

Where is Pusharo and What Does It Mean?


This area of exposed limestone is situated in a remote area of the Palatoa River at the base of the Pantiacolla hills in southeastern Peru. Since it is also situated in the buffer zone of Manu National Park, Pusharo can only be visited on tours that have the proper permits to access the area.


The petroglyphs are thought by some researchers to be purely pan-Amazonian in origin, and of mistico-religious or shamanic significance to those Amerindians of past centuries who must have been their creators.


Others believe that there is an Incan component that is now coming to light, and that the glyphs constitute parts of a map. Definitive word on the meaning of Pusharo's glyphs must wait until further research is conducted and completed.


The glyphs contain elements such as heart-shaped faces, some with double borders, spirals, zigzags, suns, "curlicue X's" and others that defy verbal description.


Although the true meaning of “Pusharo” is unknown, since the word is somewhat similar to the Quechua word for fortress (“Pukaru”), some believe that the site may have been named after a temporary fortress used by Incans in the surrounding area. Although such a fortress has yet to be found, there are legends of Incan peoples retreating to and hiding in the Pantiacolla foothills during the Spanish conquest.

Who Made The Petroglyphs?


This question has yet to be fully answered but so far, there are two main trains of thought. One is that all of the rock art at Pusharo was carved by Amazonian peoples because most of the petroglyphs are similar to rock art from other parts of the Amazon, including Brazil and Colombia. This includes geometric glyphs and various abstract designs.


The other idea is that the Pusharo rock art was made by Amazonian peoples and, at some later time, also by Incans who were settling that part of the Amazon. Detractors of this hypothesis say that support for this idea is found in petroglyphs that show Incan designs, and possible maps that coincide with Incan incursions into the foothills of the Amazon. This could very well be possible since Pusharo is just on the other side of the mountains from Cuzco.

How To Visit The Petroglyphs


Since Pusharo is located within Manu National Park, the site can only be visited with permission from authorities. The easiest way to acquire the proper permits as well as traveling to the site is on a tour that visits Pusharo on a regular basis.


Tours to Pusharo also include a stay at the Matsigenka community-owned lodge of the same name and usually result in sightings of macaws, toucans, and a wide variety of jungle wildlife.