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The art of the emblematic Sumbay caves

  • Published on Jul 24, 2017 Culture
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A place that hides millenarian traces

In 1968 the archeologist Máximo Neira Avendaño discovered an archaeological complex of nine impressive caves behind the Misti volcano and 88 kilometers away from Arequipa. Located within the limits of the The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, the discovery of the Sumbay caves marked the prehistoric period of Arequipa.

Misti Volcano National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca Sumbay Caves

Behind the Misti Volcano, in The Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve you can find the Sumbay Caves.

Nowadays, the caves are shown as imposing stone soldiers who guard the art and history of Arequipa. Its magic is shown on its rocky walls that have valuable cave paintings from the Paleolithic era. Its pictograph represents human figures, camelids, pumas and foxes, painted in a creamy white tone with an antiquity between 6,000 and 8,000 BC.

Camelid caves of Sumbay Misti Arequipa volcano

A camelid near the Sumbay caves and the Misti volcano in Arequipa

The main cave has more than 500 drawings of South American camelids. In the drawings, most of these animals are not in motion, but in rest. This is because these paintings were created in the last stages of the hunters, when they already knew the domestication of these animals.
Cave paintings caves of Sumbay Arequipa camelids

Rock paintings in the Sumbay caves Arequipa show camelids in rest.

An eye-catching figure in this cave is an amazing shaman dressed as a camelid. Therefore, it is believed that these caves were also a religious center for the primitives.

The creamy white color used in Sumbay is a peculiarity of the ancient cave art of the place, which was obtained from the clay that remains from the eruption of the volcanoes that surround the reserve. To be able to seal the drawings on those walls for thousands of years they used animal fat. Therefore, today we can revive its beauty.

In addition to the paintings, spearheads made of stone, disc knives to cut the meat, scrapers made with bones to clean animal skins and utensils to sew have also been found.

Spearheads of Caves of Sumbay Arequipa
Spearheads made of stone found in the Sumbay caves  in Arequipa.

If you take a walk around the White City (Arequipa), dare yourself to visit this archaeological complex where you will live a prehistoric experience and you will know how this magical rock art began. Welcome to the Sumbay Caves!

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