The Petroglyphs of Polish near Tarapoto, Peru: Pre-Columbian Peruvian Rock Carvings – Tarapoto, San Martin, Peru

One of the Petroglyphs of Polish

The archeological site of Polish was discovered in 1966, approximately 8 kilometers from the jungle town of Tarapoto in the San Martin department of Peru. The exact age and purpose of these petroglyphs still remains a mystery, but the site has served as a vital clue to the movements of pre-Columbian tribes in the area.

The Petroglyphs of Polish & the History of Peru

Located just off a dirt road outside the town of Tarapoto, Peru, the archeological site of Polish comprises 5 large rocks engraved with a series of images. Set amongst the shade of palms and fruit trees, the largely undeveloped site has a palpable ambience of calm and mystery even before the engravings come into clear view.

Since their discovery, the main petroglyphs have been delineated with white mineral pigments in order to make them more evident. The most recognizable images include plants, snakes, birds and other animals. Other rocks are patterned with holes, neatly formed in horizontal rows. Perhaps the most impressive petroglyphs are those now believed to be maps of the area which include details such as rivers, trails and other geographical features.

Other carvings defy clear explanation. Several geometric carvings are believed to be keys to the underworld, while others are seen as astronomical maps. The combination of local knowledge and archeological understanding has still yet to unlock the secrets of the petroglyphs.

Archeological & Historical Theories about the Petroglyphs of Polish near Tarapoto, Peru

Much of what is known (or at least theorized) about the site is due to the investigations of archeologist Anselmo Lozano Calderon. The exact age of these carvings is unknown, but Calderon has placed their origin in the late pre-Columbian period.

The Chachapoyas culture, whose cloud forest fortress, Kuelap, lies some 180km to the west of Tarapoto, is often linked with the creation of the petroglyphs. The early Chachapoyans may have moved further in to the jungle before having been conquered by the Inca. Another possible explanation is that Inca explorers made the carvings as they moved into the area.

However, Calderon also highlights the warrior tribes of the Pocras and Chancas as possible creators of the Polish petroglyphs. These tribes, native to the area, were also pursued by the ever-expanding Inca Empire. Today’s settlement of Lamas, a short distance from Tarapoto, was home to these local tribes, generally referred to by the Spanish Conquistadors as the Motilones Lamistas.

With the arrival of the Spanish, the Motilones Lamistas may have moved into the Tarapoto valley where the carvings can now be found. Due to the nature of the engravings, which would have taken many hands and much time to create, it seems that these local tribes may well have been the original creators.

The Purpose of the Polish Petroglyphs

While many of the engravings remain enigmatic, both archeologists and locals generally concur that the site served as a waypoint and resting place for travelers in the region. The carved maps certainly suggest such a function, while images of snakes are seen as a warning to travelers rather than having any greater religious or spiritual significance. One rock, its surface worn flat, is also seen as a possible resting place, a smooth surface where animal skins could be laid out for the night.

Other such petroglyphs (though on a smaller scale) have been found in the surrounding area and it is highly probable that many still lie undiscovered. Further archeological investigation may one day reveal more about the petroglyphs of Polish, while the area around Tarapoto and the department of San Martin could well be hiding more treasures as yet unknown.