Enquête sur les pyramides de Bosnie et quelques autres cas de pseudo-archéologie
Article published on 26 February 2008
Imagine: in place of Bosnia, you have Peru; in place of a pyramid, you have a cyclopean fortress; in place of mythical Atlanteans, a legendary Inca hero; in place of a Texan businessman, the mayor of a Peruvian town, owner of a touristic company...
So, the context is given, let’s tell the tale. On the 10th of January 2008, the Peruvian offical News Agency, Andina, announces the discovery (en), on the 29th of December of the previous year, of a gigantic fortress called Manco Pata, covering an area of 40,000 square meters, in Kimbiri district South-East of Peru. With the news is presented this photograph:
showing rectangular blocks of various hight: above and below a layer of more or less cubic blocks, layers of much thinner rectangular "slabs", that can also be seen of this photograph published a few days later by the same Agency:
The discovery is not announced by an archaeologist, nor any scientific authority, but rather by the mayor of Kimbiri district, called Guillermo Torres. He describes "beautiful and enigmatic structures built of large stones perfectly cut", and gives an archaeological interpretation: the "fortress" could be part of "the lost citadel of Paititi (en)", one of the legendary lost cities in South America which have given rise, since centuries, to the myth of El Dorado. And Mr. Guillermo Torres immediately adds that the place will be declared "Cultural Intangible Heritage and ecotourism reserve" of the Kimbiri district.
If the reader is aware of the Bosnian "pyramids" affair, no doubt that he will find this quite familiar, from the use of a "mysterious archaeology" kind of vocabulary ("enigmatic structures", blocks "perfectly cut"), to the largely premature announcements about the age of the structures or the effects of the discovery on local tourism. The single difference between Mr. Torres and Mr. Osmanagic is that the first is much more modest in his claims, with an age of a few centuries an a modest Peruvian touristic reserve, when the second used to talk of more than 10,000 years, and did not hesitate to nominate in advance his discovery as UNESCO World Heritage Site ...
Like Mr. Osmanagic’s "discovery" in 2006, Mr. Torres’ discovery has very quickly circulated on the web, and has been published by numerous local and international medias, usually with very few critical thinking. For instance, the main touristic web portal in Peru, Terra Peru (es), mentions it even on the 10th of January, in a article with the title "Discovery of a stone fortress on the South-East of Peru (es)", along with the photograph of an actual pre-Inca ruined construction:
This photograph was probably deemed more impressive than the ones published by Andina Agency. Unfortunately, this photo is totally unrelated to the site, as it is a construction dating from the Chachapoyas civilization (en), recently discovered North of Peru near La Joya (es) .
There are in fact few published photographs from the Manco Pata "fortress". One can find two of them in the article National Geographic devoted to the discovery (en):
These photographs match quite well with the description given in another news from Andina Agency on the 29th of January: "stone structures finely carved in the shape of walls and labyrinths from five to eight meters of height, with underground passages and caves". One can also find, in an article from the online paper Correo (es), this photograph of a group on a "pavement" made of more or less regular blocks:
Last, on the official website of Kimbiri district, a series of photographs (es), among which this "wall in shape of tower":
as well as various ruiniform structures:
One can also find some videos of the site:
and particularly this one, the longest and more interesting:
What about artifacts found on the site? In its news of the 29th of January, Andina Agency announces the discovery of "new archeological vestiges (en)", of "new evidences that would confirm the advanced architectural engineering of the recently discovered Manco Pata Fortress": villagers are said to have discovered, while "carrying out a cleaning work in the zone", various "tools carved in stone and bronze, such as axes, boulders, stones to grind grains, among others". In fact, according to this official webpage of the Kimbiri district (es), such tools have actually been found:
but absolutely nothing shows that they could be related to the "fortress" site, as the text states that they were given to the authorities by some inhabitants who found them during agricultural work in the surrounding fields, that is quite far from the "fortress" which is located in the middle of the forest.
Well, what should one think of this tale? That, even not mentioning a mythical "city of gold", describing this site as an "Inca fortress" is probably much too premature. If the photographs and videos may appear convincing to the layman, the presence of these rectangular or triangular blocks shown on the photos is not, in itself, a sufficient element allowing to conclude to an archaeological site and human constructions. To the eye of the geologist or the geomorphologist, nothing in these photos can actually disprove the hypothesis of a natural origin of these blocks, fissures, walls and "labyrinths", that could perfectly be the result of an active erosion on a layer of sedimentary rocks fractured by tectonic movements. It would not be the first time that non-specialists are confused by such a "trick" from nature: not even mentioning the "terraces" and natural "slabs" of Mr. Osmanagic’s "pyramids" in Bosnia, one can cite the case of the "Kaimanawa Wall" in New-Zealand that numerous pseudo-archaeologists still consider a human construction:
(see also the complete gallery on this website).
It seems in fact that the hypothesis of a natural origin of the "fortress" is the one supported by some local archaeologists, like for instance José Joaquín Narváez Luna (es) who clearly doubts the hypothesis of an Inca fortress (see particularly the comments of the post, as well as those of this post, where he shows the difference between the natural blocks of the "fortress" and those used in Inca architecture). Similarly, the American archaeologist, specialist in pre-Columbian archaeology, John W. Hoopes, was suspicious, on the 20th of January (en), of the archaeological origin of the site : "the "masonry" in the video looks suspiciously like naturally fractured stone and not the hand-cut blocks that are so characteristic of Inca pirca masonry". The "natural" hypothesis is also supported by the team of six scientists (es), managed by the archaeologist Wilber Paliza, which was sent by the National Institute of Culture from Cuzco in order to evaluate the discovery. Strangely, if the departure of this team for the site has been largely mentioned in mid-January (see for instance here (es) or there (es)), with a strong accent on the incoming nomination of the site as "national cultural heritage", the results of its work, completed on the 12th of February, have not, as far as I know, been published in any local media. One has to go to National Geographic website (en) to learn that, according to the team scientists, the blocks forming apparently artificial walls and surfaces are in fact the result of "natural chemical and physical processes, including seismic activity"; that these blocks are made of sandstone, and "do not show signs of wear or of intervention from the hands of men from the act of cutting stone"; that there is a total lack of "mortar on the corners or sides of the stone blocks" ; that there is no sign of "construction foundation for the walls"; and last that "similar naturally occurring structures have been found in Machu Picchu".
So, it seems that it is the same situation as in Bosnia: spectacular natural phenomena that can easily been said artificial to the layman public; reinforced by the presence of real artifacts, out of context, and used to compose a geo-archaeological "chimera". The National Geographic article mentions also the fact that the "discoverer" is not only Kimbiri mayor, but also the owner of a touristic company; and it seems that one of the main supporters of the site, member of a "Self-defense Committee" who nominated himself "warden" of the fortress (en), is the son of the owner of most of the land where the "vestiges" were found. It’s hard to judge whether it’s a case of naive enthusiasts, or of people trying to manipulate the opinion for their own economical interests. One can also suppose that, like in Visoko, the local inhabitants must be particularly enthousiastic about the subject and the opportunities for tourism given by the "discovery". In that context, the silence of the local medias on the results of the scientific enquiry does not bode well. Let’s hope, for the sake of Peru, that the affair will not evolve as in Bosnia; as the archaeologist José Joaquín Narváez Luna (es) says: "I find incredible that in Peru, where there are so much important archaeological sites abandoned on the coast, in the mountains and in the forests, one could make such a fuss about a pile of fractured rocks and ask that it be declared ’Cultural Heritage of the Nation’..."