Much closer than Cerro Vizcachas, in fact just below the road where it passes below the 3.6m telescope, are the rock engravings, or petroglyphs, of La Silla. I visited these a couple of times when I first arrived at La Silla about 15 years ago, but haven’t been back since.
Given I was wandering around the mountain anyway, I decided to pay them another visit, and was very happy to find out that there is actually a bit of a map to help find them these days.
Previously I was only aware of, and had therefore only visited, those marked ‘A’ in the map so was keen to see if I could find some of the others.
According to researchers, there are 2 main types of petroglyph at La Silla – abstract designs (mostly repeated geometrical designs) and figurative drawings depicting human outlines and animals in stick-figure format. Those at site ‘A’ tend to be mostly abstract designs and there are lots and lots of them clustered together in this site.
These are located directly below the 3.6m telescope and only about 100m from the road to Vizcachas. Be careful – it’s very steep and rocky!
From there, I found a couple of petroglyphs only at site ‘B’ and so headed over to site ‘C’ to discover drawings that started to look a little more figurative.
Including this amazing example – one of my favourites.
According to the ESO website linked above: “The delicate central spiral symbolizes a serpent while the rest of the space is taken up by strange little figures, together with some simple geometric motifs and quadrupeds“.
Site ‘D’ was actually my favourite and had many more figurative drawings than what I’d seen elsewhere – particularly of quadrupeds! The image at bottom-right has the most animals of any stone on the entire site.
From there I wandered over to Site ‘E’ … I think! Not entirely clear that I’d arrived at the right place, but again, more cool petroglyphs along the way. Basically you just look for decent-sized rocks and go check it out.
Had a great time scrambling over the mountainside searching for the petroglyphs and am thankful for the map as it did help guide me. Of course, the site has had a complete photographic and topographic survey (in spanish) of the engravings done on it (back in 1990), but it is still fun as you stumble across each one for yourself.
BTW – unfortunately there is now a 3rd type of “modern” petroglyph as well 🙁 Disappointing to see.