Cave paintings at Cueva de las Manos

Cueva de las Manos, Charcamata, and Piedra Pintada are part of an archaeological corridor that offers clear evidence of the existence of pre-Tehuelche natives 9,000 years ago

Cueva de Las Manos, Argentine

The Patagonian Plateau holds secrets and surprises that are worth discovering, even if we have to walk and walk through its wild extensions. The town of Perito Moreno offers excursions to interesting sights of drawings and paintings dating to the pre-Tehuelche indigenous peoples.

We traveled clearly to see the cave paintings and, by car, we left Perito Moreno for this wonder. From time to time we came across guanacos, rheas, and rabbits and finally we reached the Pinturas River gorge.

Already at the Interpretation Center, with some excitement, we prepared to embark on a guided tour of the trails, rooftops, and caves. Bottle of water in hand, we started walking along the path bordering the river, next to walls of porphyritic and volcanic rock, towards the famous Cueva de las Manos.

Now and then we looked down dizzy because 170 meters separated us from the river. At first, we went down there, and then we had to climb a steep slope which required more effort.

Then it was time to see with our own eyes what we often see in photos: the main cave. We pay close attention to the guide words to understand the meaning of so many pictures.

“Hundreds of hands and other negative and positive motifs in red, ocher, yellow, green, white, and black have been counted. They are human figures, guanacos in hunting scenes that archaeologists have studied since 1972. Based on analysis of carbon 14, they have determined the ages of different scenes.”

The job of archaeologists is to study the various natural layers, techniques, and materials used. The abundance, uniqueness, and diversity of the images allow them to get closer to the worldview of the people who inhabited the area more than 9,300 years ago. These images provide them with a guide to determine what they mean, how many people lived in each era, what their function, rite, or symbol was.

Studies made it possible to recognize the Casapedrense culture from 7,500 years ago. The statues show their art of hunting guanacos, skunks, birds, mice, and deer, which they use for their skin, flesh, and bones. Pieces of rock such as dots used as projectiles, scrapers, and scrapers have also been found.

As for the Toldense culture, before Casapedrense, archaeologists concluded that they had greater ingenuity when using elements. So, for example, they managed to find a boleadora from a cobblestone, which they passed through to launch it.

Walking adventure

When we left the site, we learned that there was an interesting trekking event. Two farms in the area offer accommodation and full-day archaeological expeditions to reach Cueva de las Manos, Charcamata Alero, and Cueva Grande.

The most famous are Cueva de las Manos (formerly Los Toldos) and Casa de Piedra. They are relatively close to the site and stretch in a 4 x 4 vehicle to perform a second stretch on foot through very uneven terrain.

Cave paintings show Patagonia’s unique prehistoric nature and culture. Due to their characteristics, they have been considered a National Historic Monument and a Cultural Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO).

When the day is over and we leave the sightseeing, we are accompanied by respect for the space that has survived time after time in excellent conservation condition. We hope that future generations will know and preserve it.