Excavations

In the Toro Muerto area, we see not only rock blocks covered with petroglyphs, but also many other elements of the cultural landscape. The order of the excavations – which started in 2018 – had been established with a view to recognising the nature of each of them. Our research was preceded by three seasons of intensive prospecting and source exploration. In doing so, we used the information contained in the existing literature (including Linares 1974; Díaz & Rosińska 2008; Rosińska 2016). The excavations have allowed us to verify some of the information provided by earlier authors.

 

Díaz and Rosińska (2008), for example, claimed that there are remains of residential structures in the southern part of the complex. After the survey excavations in this area, we were able to conclude that the rectangular ‘structures’ present there were not architectural ones (pre-Hispanic or historical, residential or not), but were the remains of pits left by contemporary farmers who mined for sand.

 Díaz & Rosińska 2008: 84, Fig. 1 

Díaz & Rosińska 2008

Supuestas estructuras en ortofotomapa

Alleged structures in orthophotomap

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One of the alleged structures - before excavations - 2019

Rock excavations

So far, a group of rocks have been excavated, of which the following stand out:

TM-62

TM-79

TM-252

TM-727

TM-938

TM-1219

TM-1312

TM-1855

TM-1959

Location of some rocks excavated

in the 2018 and 2019 seasons

Orthophotoplanes of the excavated rocks - 2018

Before research is carried out, the surroundings of selected rocks are photographed from the air using a drone. The original terrain is recorded, and the geodetic points used for subsequent measurements are established. By using these photographs, the shape of the excavation ditch is determined – most often adjusted to the shape, size and arrangement of the rock. A metre grid is also applied for precise documentation of possible finds.

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The methodology applied in the excavations is mainly oriented towards the recognition of cultural layers and arbitrary levels (every 5 cm). The process is quite difficult, since the entire terrain is composed of sand, and in this environment, recognizing the different cultural moments tends to be complicated.

Excavations in the boulder TM-79 ("Roca de Eloy" Ar-5-1-26) - 2018 season

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The results of the works to date was the discovery of diverse cultural material found in the immediate vicinity of some boulders (selected for their iconography). The most interesting finds include offerings made up of so-called painted stone tiles (votive plates) and related botanical material. The latter suggests that rituals connected with the consumption of large quantities of food may have taken place in the vicinity of petroglyphic rocks.

Thanks to dry, desert conditions, the organic material found in Toro Muerto is well preserved. So far, we have recorded the remains of animal bones (Andean camelids and guinea pigs), amaranth leaves, yucca, yam, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, peppers, guavas, cocaine seeds, cotton fibres, corn cobs and other plants not yet identified. It is worth adding that there was virtually no ceramic material in the offerings mentioned. This makes it difficult to date them more precisely.

 

The material obtained during the excavations was carefully arranged and is temporarily stored in Corire in accordance with the guidelines of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. Laboratory work carried out each season includes cleaning the material, photographing it, labelling, cataloguing, and drawing up an inventory. In this way, it is prepared for being analysed by specialists. Thanks to them, in the future, in a slow but systematic way, we will be able to reveal the secrets of Toro Muerto and its former users. 

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