Survey of undocumented petroglyphs launches in Chile’s Atacama

The Chilean government’s cultural grant program has awarded funding for a project that will spread information about previously unknown ancient rock paintings.

Northern Chile’s Atacama Desert offers multiple locations to view petroglyphs, or rock paintings, from the area’s ancient dwellers. But one site near Alto del Carmen in the Huasco Province, located about four hours north of La Serena, has never been properly documented, and it’s largely unknown by the outside world.

For this reason the Chilean government’s cultural grant program Fondos de Cultura has recently awarded over US$ 6,000 to Jhon Meléndez in support of his project, “Finding lost routes: surveying the iconography of petroglyphs in Huasco Alto.”

Thanks to Fondos de Cultura, Meléndez will now begin conducting a survey of previously undocumented petroglyphs in the Huasco Province. Once he and his team have assessed the sites and photographed them, Meléndez plans to publish a book that illustrates his findings.

Meléndez told Bio Bio Chile that his motivation for embarking on this task is to generate awareness about the ancestral legacy that exists in the Huasco Province. He also aims to protect the area, and to encourage cultural tourism in the region.

«There are petroglyphic sites that that you can find in the tourism books now, but more exist. The idea is to understand a little more in order to provide more for the tourists, and to make sure these sites are protected,” Meléndez told La Voz del Huasco.

To achieve his goals, a history professor, an anthropologist, a photographer and a designer will all be collaborating on the project, according to Bio Bio Chile.

Meléndez’s book launch will be held later this year at the community center Liceo de Alto del Carmen. The book launch will also feature a photo exhibition of the newly documented petroglyphs.

The Atacama Region of Chile is renown for its ancient cultures and artifacts, which include mysterious gigantic rock etchings and evidence of the world’s oldest mummies.