Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Art > Rock Art

The picture-engravings of Taira

One of the most renowned rock art styles is the Taira, which takes its name froma rock shelter in the upper Loa River basin. This style’s beautiful images are found in a 300-km arcthat takes in Taira itself and11 additional sites in the valley, some high-altitude ravines (above 2500 m a.s.l.) and the lands between the Loa and the Atacama salt flat. Most of these sites are located near freshwater springs.

The Taira figures were painted or engraved onto the rock, or applied using a combination of both techniques called “picture-engraving.” The images of Taira are outstanding for the detailed realism and transparency of their figures, the variations in groove depth and the juxtaposition different sized figures and the interplay among them and with irregularities on the rock support. The vast majority of the figures here are adult llamas depicted in profile, with all four extremities visible and accompanied by offspring just a few weeks old. Human figures are much less numerous, and when they do appear they are depicted naked, holding a staff or playing a drum. Vulvas and birds are also present, though even less, although when they do appear they seem to be central to the composition. There are also a few images of felines and foxes on the margins of some panels. The image of a small llama drinking milk from a larger one with six human figures in tunics underneath may be an allusion to the myth of the Celestial Llama and its Offspring, which is said to have descended at night from the sky to drink from freshwater springs on the land and enrich the herdsmen with her wool.

Upper Loa River basin, Region II of Antofagasta
Approximately 800–400 B.C.
Style: Taira
Source:  J. Berenguer, 1999, “El evanescente lenguaje del arte rupestre en los Andes atacameños,” in Arte rupestre en los Andes de Capricornio, J. Berenguer and F. Gallardo, Eds., pp. 21–30, Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago.