UCA professor discovers ancient rock painting

— Dr. Reinaldo (Dito) Morales Jr., assistant professor of art history at the University of Central Arkansas, has confirmed a major discovery in the world of rock art: an ancient rock painting at a burial site from the Inka site of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Morales plans to submit a manuscript about his discovery, New Rock Art at Old Machu Picchu, to a scholarly journal.

Dr. Jeff Young, chair of the department of art, said he believes Morales' discovery could be a significant contribution to the research at Machu Picchu as well as a great step for UCA's department.

Morales discovered the painting in 2000 while on a three-day graduate school research trip. The painting is located on a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site, Machu Picchu, which has been the subject of scientific study for nearly 100 years.

However, after trying to find research on the painting over the past eight years, Morales said he has not found any mention of this particular painting even though the nearly 50-foot rock on which it appears is a popular tourist attraction passed by approximately 70,000 tourists in 2007 alone.

"I have pored through the [research] literature," Morales said.

"I am still waiting on a couple more things that may come in, but I don't think [the literature] will mention this work."

Morales said he has been scouring over resources for the past few years and has tried to read every book and journal that includes any mention of rock art in Peru.

Although Morales discovered the painting in 2000, he never actually thought about the importance of what it could be until recently. He said he assumed, after first seeing it in 2000, that the painting had already been discovered and researched. He said he just took a few pictures and then went back with his graduate class.

"[The painting] has sort of been eating at the back of my mind for a while," Morales said. "It sort of bothered me. So a couple of years ago, after I started to get grant money through UCA to continue my research, I started thinking of going back to Machu Picchu."

So last year, Morales traveled to the site in the Peruvian Andes to confirm the painting's location and to document the painting through his own personal sketches and photos.

The painting has developed a calcium deposit over it, which Morales said could take a thousand years or more to form.

Although the painting is in an Inka environment, Morales said he does not believe his discovered painting to be fromthat culture because Incan art is typically dominated by rectilinear geometric patterns, whereas this painting is primarily curvilinear.

"This painting doesn't look like the painting style we typically see on Killke pottery, which immediately preceded the 15thcentury Inka in this region, but my research on this style is still ongoing," Morales said. "In my proposal, I've said it looks like the Recuay, [a Peruvian culture] who are much, much earlier than the Inka - 1,000 or 1,500 years earlier than the Inka, and from a completely different part of Peru.

"So it doesn't make much sense that this would be [the Recuay's] stuff. In any case, looking at the Recuay ceramics, that's the closest thing I can figure out to it, but they don't belong there. So I have no idea who may have done this."

He has also had his paper about the discovery, along with six other papers, accepted for the International Congress of Rock Art, "Global Art," sponsored by the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations and the Associação Brasileira de Arte Rupestre (Brazilian Rock Art Association).

River Valley Ozark, Pages 69 on 04/16/2009

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