Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Art > Rock Art

The petroglyphs of Las Lizas

There are many rock art sites on the desert coast of Northern Chile that contain images of marine species, but the site of Playa Las Lizasis one of the most outstanding. The site consists of five rocky outcrops with 66 sets of engravings produced by linear incision and percussion, most of them facing the ocean. There are 146 figures in all, the most common ones being sharks, dolphins and tuna fish, with a smaller proportion of swordfish and a few other fish, namely sardines, tollo, sole and red bream. Unlike at El Médano, the fish depicted at Las Lizas are represented individually, very rarely as part of a scene, and are usually in a vertical position, which suggests they have been caught. One outcrop at Las Lizas has a cylindrical “cup” carved out of the rock with the remains of red paint inside and around 100 incisions or “cuts” nearby that suggest ritual activity.

Although near-shore fish species can be identified in the petroglyphs, most of the fauna are deepwater species that had to be captured using fishing vessels. However, the only image of such a vessel corresponds to a sea lion skin raft with a two-man crew. The Las Lizas petroglyph deposit is thought to have developed around the “cup” and a nearby freshwater spring, which could have been conducive to rituals associated with marine fishing and hunting activities. The presence of the raft suggests that thesepetroglyphs were produced between the 5th and 16th centuries by one of several groups that would later be known as Changos.

Location: North of Caldera, Region IIIof Atacama.

Timeframe: Approximately 500–1500 A.D.

Style: Las Lizas

Source:  H. Niemeyer, 1985, “El yacimiento de petroglifos Las Lizas (Región de Atacama, Provincia de Copiapó, Chile)”, in Estudios en arte rupestre, C. Aldunate, J. Berenguer & V. Castro, eds., pp. 131–171, Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, Santiago.