Vilavilani cave in southern Peru houses some of the country’s most stunning ancient cave paintings, yet it is relatively unknown and unprotected. The paintings display scenes of the early hunters and gathers of Peru in an astounding array of colors from bright reds, yellows, oranges and browns to whites, blacks and greens. The Vilavilani cave is located in the Palca district in the region of Tacna.
Little is known about these paintings as little attention has ben paid to them. Through comparison to the near-by paintings in the caves of Toquepala , however, a few conclusions can be made. No scientific analysis has ever been done to determine their age, but the style, symbols and medium of the Vilavilani paintings are very similar to those from Toquepala which date back to approximately 7,000 B.C. Archaeologist Jesus Gordillo explains that “We could be talking about paintings taking back 7,000 years B.C., since they have very similar characteristics to the cave paintings found in the caves of Toquepala.”
Despite the significance of the site, the former director of the National Institute of Culture in Tacna Oscar Ayca claims they could be the most important cave painting site in Southern Peru, the Vilavilani caves remain unprotected partly due to their obscurity. “It is urgent to restore many of the paintings that are being destroyed by rains and strong winds that erode them. We also must provide security and care so that commoners can have access to Vilavilani cave paintings,” Ayca stated.
Like many cave paintings around the world, the ones at Vilavilani tell stories of the hunter-gathers who lived there thousands of years ago. There is the possibility that they also used thee caves to shelter their camelids and vizcachas, small rodents similar to chinchillas.
The Toquepala caves, close by to those at Vilavilani, have undergone scientific study which dates them to 7,000 B.C. Here some of the paintings depict a uniquely Andean form of hunting called chaco in which a circle of ‘beaters’ move through the landscape, herding all animals before them, into an ever smaller and smaller circle where the hunters can easily catch them. During Incan times it was a state regulated activity only held on special occasions.