In 1961, the Rio Ica burst its banks and flooded parts of the Ocucaje Desert. Was an earthquake responsible for the flood? When the water had retreated, the local farmers inspected the damage. Their meager fields were completely devastated. Where they had been able to farm crops, the thin layer of fertile soil had been washed away entirely. While the native farmers walked across the land they made an astonishing discovery: the powers of nature had unearthed rocks of varying sizes, which had for a long time been lying in the bone-dry ground. The river had probably polished the stones for eons.
El Río Ica durante un período seco, 1999. ( Dominio público )
The engraved stones were smooth, rounded, grey Andesite, which is a very hard rock. This property makes Andesite the preferred material to pave plazas. Because of its outstanding ability to withstand weathering, and its particular hardness, it is ideal for road building.
And yet, the Ica stones with their peculiar engravings were of Andesite. Because of their hardness, they would actually not be the first choice for any artist to create thousands upon thousands of carved works of art. The impoverished farmers were delighted at their finds, and sold the works of arts to tourists. The entrepreneurial locals made the engravings popular as ‘Inca Art’.
Ica Stones (© Walter Langbein)
Plundering the Dead
The busy stone merchants were certainly aware of one thing: if the engraved stones were genuine archaeological finds, then they were guilty twice over for infringing the prevailing law. To plunder archaeological sites and sell prehistoric finds was strictly prohibited—if one was no archaeologist. They were certainly not permitted to send such artifacts out of the country. Peru’s prehistoric legacy belongs to Peru, and must not be sold abroad.
And so, the local inhabitants went out at night, searching for engraved stones. They were no longer satisfied with simply picking them off the ground. They had begun to systematically dig. They weren’t new to it. Agriculture had for centuries produced less than meager yields, and grave robbing was much more lucrative. Veritable armies—so Professor Javier Cabrera Darquea informed me—went on their way, especially during clear, starry nights.
There would always be a find: textiles, among other things, from pre-Inca times, which the dry desert ground had preserved astonishingly well. The grave robbers systematically searched for, found and plundered tombs that also dated from pre-Inca times. They wore amulets during their work, to protect them from the wrath of the spirits of the dead. During their nightly activities the raiders were less afraid of the police, but all the more of the dead, for they were robbed of their grave goods.
In 1966, Professor Cabrera received one such carved stone as a birthday present. In the same year, Santiago Agurto Calvo, an architect, carried out archaeological excavations in Ica. He repeatedly unearthed engraved stones. Calvo became convinced that the engravings originated from artists of pre-Inca times. He tried in vain to arouse the interest of mainstream archaeology for the mysterious finds.
Prof. Cabrera explaining his collection. (© Walter-Jörg Langbein)
Professor Cabrera continuously received engraved stones, especially from people who were grateful that he had helped them without asking payment for his services. Soon, the famous son of the town of Ica developed a genuine passion for collecting. Over the years, the hundreds of engraved drawings grew to thousands. Professor Javier Cabrera Darquea, who gave lectures at the Universidad Nacional San Luis Gonzaga soon realized that, aside from the plain, geometrical designs, the images depicted plants and animals from prehistoric times. There were clearly identifiable saurians that had been carved into the stone surfaces.
Some stones feature saurian-like creatures. (© Walter Langbein)
How were pre-Inca people supposed to have known what dinosaurs looked like? And even more fantastical is this thought: the artists who created an inestimable number of images portrayed human beings and dinosaurs as contemporaries. Other stones featured complicated medical procedures, even heart transplants and caesarean operations! [Read: Professor Cabrera’s Cabinet of Horrors: Secret Chambers and Shocking Artifacts with Controversial Origins]
The Library in Stone
I repeatedly visited the museum in Ica. Professor Cabrera was always exceedingly helpful. I came to the realization that the dismissive attitude of orthodox science annoyed and aggrieved him. He frequently voiced his outrage at the refusal of mainstream scientists to acknowledge as genuine the library in stone. “One is able to read the engraved stones like a book!” the argumentative museum director emphatically reiterated.
A collection of Ica stones surrounding a portrait of Javier Cabrera. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Most scientists have a completely different opinion: human beings and dinosaurs as contemporaries? A highly developed civilization that had mastered advanced medicine with complicated surgical procedures? Human beings who were not only outstanding physicians, but also devoted themselves to science many thousands of years ago? On a large number of the stones in the museum one could see human beings who gazed at the heavens with the aid of telescopes.
Human looking through monocular telescope. (© Walter Langbein)
The answer was obvious for orthodox science: there could not possibly have existed such a highly developed civilization so many thousands of years ago…because acknowledging the finds as genuine would have rendered the entire, current concept of human history as absurd. The engravings can be nothing else but forgeries…because it is an absolute requirement for them to be forgeries! In 1998, to the delight of mainstream scientists, the Spaniard Vincente Paris delivered the proof: the stones are forgeries. To be precise: Vincente Paris examined several engraved stones and came to the conclusion that the images had been created in the recent past, and not in the murky prehistory. His microphotography frames show (as Luc Bürgin points out in his excellent work Lexikon der Verbotenen Archaeology— Mysteriöse Relikte von A bis Z ) “on many Ica stones traces of modern paint and polishing agents”.
How does one adjudge Vincente Paris’ findings? Are all engraved stones in Cabrera’s museum forgeries? This is, and has been for decades, precisely the claim of so-called sceptics, self-appointed defenders of orthodox science.
In 1977 Erich von Däniken published his voluminous work Beweise—Lokaltermin in fünf Kontinenten (According to the Evidence ). In this volume, Von Däniken also writes about the engraved stones of Ica: “The Cabrera family owns a large house on the Plaza de Armas, and it is necessary because the Cabreras are very fertile. Nevertheless, three large rooms are fitted out floor to ceiling with shelves on which sit an enormous number of stones. The sizes range from that of a soccer ball to a balloon. Every stone is engraved with different motifs […] One discovers Indians who ride on birds. Others are immortalized with strange tools in their hands. On one stone, an Indian uses a magnifying glass in order to better see. One of the stones is a pocket-sized globe: the outlines of strange countries, continents and oceans are meticulously incised […] Professor Cabrera, himself a skilled surgeon, purposefully points out a series of stones that depict the process of a heart transplant. The heart of a patient lying on a kind of operating table is surgically removed from his chest; hoses supply him with infusions. A fresh heart is inserted. Two surgeons mend the arteries. The chest opening is being closed.”
Ica Stone showing medical procedure. (© Walter Langbein)
In 1977, ‘critics’ fiercely attacked Erich von Däniken. ‘Journalists’ documented what Von Däniken allegedly concealed. During the British television documentary Pathways to the Gods , screened in the same year, said ‘masters of research’ presented the Peruvian Basilio Uschuya, whom they had allegedly traced and found, as the forger of the stones. Uschuya, so they said, and not without a good measure of spite, engraved the stones with a dentist’s drill, and then artificially aged them—by baking them in cow dung. Did this ‘unmask’ Erich von Däniken?
In 1996, the BBC again addressed the ‘forgeries’. In 1997 ‘Cable 1’ excelled with a skeptical documentary. Again, Basilio Uschuya was presented as the forger of the stones of Ica.
Did this close the ‘case of the Ica stones’? Could it truly be closed, since the critical journalists had traced the forger of all Ica stones? Well…the matter is not that simple. It was not at all difficult to ‘discover’ the forger Basilio Uschuya. No Sherlock Holmes was required for that. The ‘masters of research’ diligently omitted to mention in their revelations that it was Erich von Däniken who had introduced Basilio Uschuya in his book According to the Evidence . In order to find the Peruvian ‘forger’, the journalists only needed to read Von Däniken’s book.
The fact remains: Erich von Däniken made the public aware of the engraved stones of Ica. And he openly wrote about the ‘forger’. However, Von Däniken has strong reservations that Uschuya could have forged thousands of engravings. Indeed, it is impossible for Basilio Uschuya to have embellished the enormous number of stones with countless engravings.
Ica Stone featuring stars and planets. (© Walter Langbein)
But why does Basilio Uschuya claim to have made “all of the engraved stones”? Did he really say that? Another fact is that Basilio Uschuya has sold ‘engraved Ica stones’ to foreign tourists. The Peruvian police confronted him with the accusation of having illegally sold archaeological finds. If found guilty of contravening the law, which is supposed to protect Peru’s archaeological inheritance, Basilio Uschuya would have been severely punished. Therefore, he declared that, together with his wife, he had forged the stones. The sale of ‘non-genuine’ archaeological artifacts is not prohibited. Basilio Uschuya was not prosecuted or punished.
Basilio Uschuya: “Although I have told the police that I fabricated the Cabrera stones, I have done so only for my protection; otherwise, they would have arrested me for plundering archaeological sites.”
Walter J. Langbein is author of some 60 non-fiction books on mysteries of the world, many of which have become bestsellers in Europe.
Top Image: The famous Ica Stones in the collection of Professor Cabrera. (©Walter Langbein)
Translation by Marlies Bugmann
Updated on February 15, 2022.