“ . . . natural adapted features in a sanctified landscape.”
These words (from John Michell, Confessions of a Radical Traditionalist, 2005, p. 127) resonated in my mind as I explored the Markawasi Plateau. I had come to this small plateau (about 2 miles long by a little over half a mile wide) in the Andes, towering above the town of San Pedro de Casta (50 miles northeast of Lima), at an elevation of 12,000 feet above sea level, to view for myself the reputed ancient monumental stone sculptures. Here, some claimed, were to be found the remains of a lost culture that dates back thousands of years, if not tens of thousands of years or more. Supposedly they created monumental carvings from the granodiorite cliffs, boulders, and outcroppings on the top of the plateau—carvings of an anthropomorphic and zoomorphic nature, including peoples of many different races and animals found not just in the immediate vicinity, but from other continents as well. There was even an alleged sculpture of the Egyptian divinity Ta-urt (Thoueris), goddess of childbirth and maternity, in her typical form as an upright female hippopotamus. If these reports were true, this would indicate a pre-Columbian culture that had transoceanic ties, and just perhaps it represented a branch of the primordial global lost civilization of which many writers and philosophers have speculated over the centuries. Certainly such reports piqued my interest, especially since I have championed both the concept of a very ancient high civilization and the idea of significant global contact among cultures long ago.
Before leaving the U.S., I was warned that Markawasi is a landscape of strange, anomalous phenomena, be they encounters with extraterrestrials (many UFOs, which the Peruvians refer to as ovni/ovnis, have been sighted from the plateau) or inhabitants of the reputed tunnels that lie beneath the Andes. Visitors to the plateau have experienced altered states of inner consciousness, accompanied by telepathic and clairvoyant abilities, whether in the dream or waking state. What might await me in this preternatural setting?
Markawasi has attracted the attention of some obscure, but nonetheless influential, figures in the arcane and occult sciences over the past fifty-some years. Foremost among these are Daniel Ruzo (1900-1993) and George Hunt Williamson (1926-1986).
Born in Lima, Daniel Ruzo was trained in law, but is best known for his studies of the esoteric, occult, and protohistory as exemplified by his interpretation of the monuments of Markawasi. Ruzo amassed a large collection of works by and about Nostradamus and wrote a book, El Testamento Auténtico de Nostradamus, on the seer that went through a number of editions. He was also a 33rd degree Mason.
Most importantly relative to Markawasi, however, Ruzo became convinced as early as 1924-1925 that an incredibly ancient culture once existed in Central and South America, almost entirely destroyed by a cataclysm many thousands of years ago—a belief he based on traditions and legends passed down from pre-Spanish times. Perhaps the ancient culture was the American remnants or branch of a worldwide primordial culture, the lost civilization of primal times. It was from this long-forgotten culture, Ruzo suggested, that our present humanity inherited the roots of our own civilized ways. The few survivors of the cataclysm, which Ruzo thought might have been the same as the Biblical Noachian Flood, may have hidden in underground chambers, caves, and tunnels. Ruzo searched for physical evidence of this very ancient culture, from the time immemorial that he referred to as protohistory. He thought he found such evidence in gigantic stone figures found along the Peruvian coast, but they were not clear enough to be convincing—most people dismissed Ruzo’s “sculptures” as simply natural erosional features. It was all rather like seeing faces and animals among the clouds.
Ruzo called the protohistorical culture and people (or beings) he sought the Masma. The name was not original to Ruzo, but came to the Peruvian esoterist Pedro Astete (1871-1940) in a dream while he resided in Andahuaylas, Peru. In 1905 Astete dreamt of a huge, ancient subterranean hall, filled with scrolls containing the knowledge of the most ancient ones. And Astete heard a voice repeating the name “Masma.” Astete studied extensively myths, legends, and esoteric symbolism, and believed that sacred and mysterious treasures were buried in some cavern or tunnel system in the Huanca region of Peru. Astete lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 1911-1923, and in 1913 a Buenos Aires periodical recounted another dream by a second person that matched in many features Astete’s dream of 1905. Furthermore, in 1915, Astete discovered that the name Masma has Biblical connections. Genesis 25:12-16 names Masma (Mishma in some translations, and one of his brothers is Massa) as one of the twelve sons of Ishmael (the son of Abraham, by the Egyptian Hagar [also known as Agar]). Each of these twelve brothers was a ruler of his own tribe. Could the tribe of Masma have reached the Pacific coast of South America? Could the mysterious land of Ophir, to which Solomon’s fleet traveled to return with gold (1 Kings 9:26-28), be located in modern Peru?
Ruzo came to know Astete in the 1920s, and was convinced that the Masma of the dream were real, and this was the protohistorical culture that he devoted most of his life to uncovering. Despite his penetrating analyses of myth, legend, and tradition, Ruzo made little headway uncovering physical evidence for the Masma until 1952 when he was shown a photograph of what appeared to be an enormous sculpted head. This was the Peca-Gasha, or “head of the narrow pass” (Williamson, 1959, p. 34), of Markawasi, also sometimes referred to as “The Head of the Inca,” that Ruzo and others would later refer to as the “Monument to Humanity.” Ruzo quickly mounted a small expedition to Markawasi that year, and was stunned to find not just the eighty feet tall Peca-Gasha, but also numerous other gigantic sculptures in the rocks and cliffs of the plateau. Ruzo intensively studied the Markawasi monuments from about 1953 to 1960, living on the plateau for extended periods of time. He lectured about his findings at scientific conferences in Mexico, Lima, and Paris, published scientific papers on the sculptures and wrote a book about Markawasi. Not everyone was convinced, however, and many archaeologists continued to regard the supposed sculptures as natural landforms sculpted by erosion. In some circles the subject became known as “Ruzo’s Folly.”
The Peca-Gasha is actually not just one head, but two major faces melded Janus-like, with one facing each way. These faces are evidently of different races, and according to Ruzo and others, a dozen smaller faces of various races, nationalities, genders, and ages can be found on the structure, hence the name Monument to Humanity.
George Hunt Williamson first popularized Markawasi among the English-speaking world in a chapter of his 1959 book Road in the Sky. Williamson based his account on a visit to the plateau in 1957, and he also had a chance to interview Dr. Ruzo (who then lived near Lima). Williamson, an advocate of UFO contact in ancient and modern times, associated the Markawasi structures with extraterrestrials and giants of past aeons. Indeed, Road in the Sky is a book about extraterrestrial contact with humans on earth, from ancient to modern times, with speculations on the future of such communion. For Williamson, Markawasi is a “Sacred Forest” in stone where the “gods” (extraterrestrials, or crosses between extraterrestrials and earthlings?) met to plan the future.
So what are the structures, the monuments, the gigantic megalithic sculptures, found at Markawasi?
I interpret the monuments of Markawasi as incredible simulacra—that is, in this case, natural objects that in the mind’s eye take the shape of forms of other entities, such as human faces and animals. I believe they were recognized as such even in very remote ancient times. The weathering and erosion of the granodiorite of which the plateau is composed gives rise to rounded anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features that, with a little imagination and insight, can be seen as very convincing sculptural forms. Indeed, the longer one stays on the plateau, and the harder one looks, the more sculptures appear. Just possibly a little retouching on the part, a human hand has enhanced some of the natural monuments, but given their heavily eroded condition, I could not be certain. I found examples where the sculptures seem to have been created in stages, whether or not the creative forces were natural or man-induced. Furthermore, following a Rupert Sheldrake morphogenic (morphogenetic) field type of idea, continued viewing and interpretation of the structures may have reinforced later interpretations.
The Markawasi sculptures are point-of-view manifestations, not typical sculptures in the round. Most can only be seen from a particular angle, and in many cases under particular lighting conditions, be it in morning, evening, a solstice sunrise, by the light of a full moon, or under other special conditions. Believers in the sculptures feel there are special spots that have been designated as viewing locations, and to move even a few feet from some of the spots means that the sculpture is obscured or not visible at all. Certain sculptures appear to change forms as one moves or the light changes, perhaps from a face of one race to a face of another race. Such apparent subtlety and precision in sculpting and viewing has been used to argue for the reality of the artificiality of the monuments, but likewise has been advanced as strong evidence that they are simply natural structures to which humans bring their own meaning and interpretations. Essentially the stones and cliffs of Markawasi are like a huge Rorschach test. Among the forms that various people, including Ruzo and others, have identified at Markawasi are men and women of diverse races and nationalities, from native South American to Semitic to African, mostly these are facial profiles, but some of the figures consist of standing or reclining forms. Along with people are a diverse array of animals such as horses, camels, elephants, lions, frogs, seals, turtles, sphinxes, a hippopotamus, sea lions or seals, a crocodile, lizards, and many other forms.
The indigenous Andean peoples had a traditional concept of wakas (guacas), which could in an abstract sense refer to laws (as laws of nature) or knowledge, or could at times be personified as heroes and deities (similar, perhaps, to the Egyptian concept of neterw, also spelled neters, or divine principles) or as cult ancestors. Wakas, it was believed, could sometimes take the physical form of uniquely shaped rocks or other natural structures. This is exactly what we may behold in the simulacra of Markawasi. The perfection and abundance of the manifestations of the wakas would make this an incredibly sacred place indeed.
Markawasi during the dry season (my visit was in August 2005) is a place virtually guaranteed to induce and enhance psychical, paranormal, mind-altering, preternatural, consciousness-bending experiences. It is a natural laboratory for heightened sensory perception. It is no wonder that this would be a perfect site for shamanistic gatherings and ritual invocations, whether in the guise of the traditional language of symbolism and hallucinations, or modern interpretations (such as a mecca for those bent on experiencing an unidentified flying object).
The plateau is shrouded in mystery at many levels. There is even disagreement as to the derivation of the name Markawasi (Marcahuasi). Daniel Ruzo stated that the name is relatively recent and means “two-storied house,” referring to the stone buildings (which Ruzo regarded as Inca military garrisons) found, along with burial huts, on the plateau. In contrast, Lisa Rome states that marca in Quecha means the land belonging to a community, and huasi means town, so the name Marcahuasi refers to the land for the town or entire community, and from this etymology she suggests that the plateau was a communal religious center for the surrounding area.
Virtually no ancient inscriptions are known from the plateau. There is one major petroglyph remaining at Markawasi, although Ruzo suggested that once there must have been many. Occurring on the neck of the Peca-Gasha, it takes the form of sixteen squares arranged in a four-by-four checkerboard pattern. According to Williamson (1959, p. 41-42), citing Astete and Ruzo, this is a very ancient and primordial symbol, from which many later symbols were derived, and incorporates among other ideas, the ascent and harmonization of the individual, and hence humanity, with the forces of nature and the cosmos.
The cosmos are manifest at Markawasi. I went the skeptic, and cameback convinced that it is a very special, mystical, spiritual, mind-altering place. It is an incredible site that raises many issues concerning lost civilizations, the past history of humanity, varying states of consciousness, and the nature of reality. Markawasi is a location where, more than most sites, each person brings their own notions, molds the landscape to their own thoughts, is affected in unique ways, and brings back their own perceptions. This, in my opinion, is part of the mystery and draw of Markawasi. I am determined to return to this enchanted plateau.
Robert M. Schoch, perhaps best known for his re-dating of the Great Sphinx, is a faculty member at Boston University. He lectures widely and is the author with R. A. McNally of Voices of the Rocks, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders, and Pyramid Quest. Schoch will be co-leading a tour to Peru in March (2006). While Markawasi will not be io the itinerary, many other related sites will be, including the famous Nazca Lines. For details see: http://www.robertschoch.net.