Ancient discoveries on Aconcagua

There is grass!and how? And if we are more than five thousand meters high!This singular dialogue took place, one clear summer morning, in the high Cordillera of Mendoza, between the young Alberto Pizzolon and one of his four fellow climbers. They had reached a high wall that made it difficult for them to climb to the highest peak in the Americas along a practically untraveled route. As they planned their climb with their rappelling team, Alberto looked back. On the edge that they had just crossed he saw that bunch of grass, and despite the justified objection, he came closer to take a better look at it. Almost covered by a patch of snow, he suddenly sees the top of a human skull. An unknown injured climber? As the others approach, they see that the grass is not grass, but rather the lower part of long feathers, and that, furthermore, the place was surrounded in a semicircular fashion by a wall of assembled stones (“pirca”), quite in ruins. They also collected some loose yellow feathers and some textile pieces, detached from fabrics that had been torn by the Aconcagua 360 Routesame erosion of the ground that had partially uncovered the skull.Lacking any knowledge of archaeology, they realized, however, that it was something very old; that there was a human being buried in a place and in a way that pointed to pre-Columbian times. Gabriel Cabrera, the eldest of the group and leader of the expedition, recalled having once heard of the discovery of a frozen indigenous person on the summit of Cerro El Toro (6,300 meters) in a remote place in the province of San Juan.;A mummy! i What to do?… First of all, good judgment: don’t touch anything, and wait for instructions from “knowledgeable people”. They took some photos and collected some of the loose material; Valuable documentation that later served to recognize that they had discovered one of the rare high altitude sanctuaries in our Andean regions. There they promised to prevent possible looting, avoid disclosing the finding ahead of time, and collaborate Aconcagua Mountain Guides with the scientific studies that could be done, with the condition that these be carried out in Mendoza and that the material remain in some official institution of the province. A prudent and correct decision that managed to be fulfilled successfully. After this unexpected “setback,” the climbers continued in their strenuous attempt to ascend Aconcagua through the long and challenging southwest ridge. The attempt finally failed due to the bad weather of the following days. Still, they returned with the satisfaction of having made a find that can be considered the most important in the archeology of Mendoza. The discovery expedition, made up of Gabriel Cabrera, the brothers Fernando and Juan Carlos Pierobon, and Franco and Alberto Pizzolon, was one of the four that, at the beginning of 1985, headed to Aconcagua from different sides as a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Club Mountaineer from Mendoza. At that time, it was presided over by Felix Fellinger, and the climbers initially turned to him for advice after discovering the Aconcagua Treksmummy. In the course of the conversations, someone remembered that at the National University of Cuyo, a professor had once done high-mountain archeology work (including the rescue and study of the mummy as mentioned earlier from El Toro hill). But it was January, vacation time: the previous professor (who is the one who writes these lines) was absent in a house on the Atlantic coast, with an imprecise address and no telephone; the assistant professor of the chair was on a scholarship in Spain, and the other collaborators, dispersed or unknown. But it was necessary to hurry: many people from different origins were on the Aconcagua, and the news could leak at any moment. It was possible to contact the Guercio couple, assistants of the Institute of Archeology of the University, and the laboratory technician of the same. Julius Ferrari. Finally, it was possible to send a message to the professor mentioned initially, informing him of the finding. After an initial hesitation (no one likes to be taken from a sunny beach three days after arriving), he decided to return quickly to lead a scientific-Andean expedition that was already organized with the help of the discoverers.The enthusiastic collaboration of all allowed it to be done practically without the need for special funds, usually necessary in this kind of work. That’s right, like on January 23 (fifteen days after the discovery), we left in a well-loaded truck, lent by Mr. Ernesto Meli, three discoverers andeanists (G. Cabrera, Juan Carlos Pierobon, and Alberto Pizzolon), and three members of the Institute of Archeology (J. Ferrari, Eduardo Guercio, and Victor Duran), in the direction of Puente del Inca. A journalist (Germán Bustos Herrera) and a guest climber (Silvia Centeleghe) were added here. Those who write this meant an unexpected resumption of their high mountain archaeological expeditions, the last of which had taken place in 1977 in the northwest of La Rioja. Eight years of untrainedness would surely take its toll, and age was approaching 57. However, the good planning of the ascent that allowed us to adapt to the altitude, the skill and encouragement of the companions, the good weather that favored us throughout the ascent and the inevitable enthusiasm that arouses the prospect of an important find in the Cordillera (which is added to the spell that our high Andes already exert), allowed us to carry out the mission. We want to thank here once again so many excellent collaborators.