Recently, the enigmatic ‘Harakbut Face’ was rediscovered in the lush Amazon rainforest. It has now been recognized as an essential component of Peru’s national cultural legacy.
The image depicted above is commonly referred to by the indigenous Harakbut people as the ‘Rostro Harakbut’ or the ‘Harakbut Face.’ This intriguing site is situated within the Harakbut reserve, located in a highly remote region of southeastern Peru. Although discovered in 2014, it has yet to be extensively studied, which has sparked widespread curiosity about its purpose and origin. Many unanswered questions remain, but the primary one is whether this unique formation is a natural phenomenon or an artificial monument created by humans.
According to the Harakbut people, the Rostro has been a part of their oral history for generations. It is believed to have always existed, as the elders have shared stories about it with them from time immemorial. The Rostro is considered akin to a deity by the Harakbut community. Additionally, they posit that there are two more Rostros, but they do not know how to locate them. Nevertheless, they have been able to find one of the three Rostros.
In October of last year, a group of Pipe Harakbut men went on an expedition to the ‘Rostro’ accompanied by UK filmmaker, Paul Redman. The resulting film, titled ‘The Reunion’, was screened in Lima last November and highlights the stories of two Harakbut leaders, Luis Tayori and Jaime Korisepa.
The video below features Tayori and Korisepa discussing their experience with the Rostro, which they learned about from the elders of the Harakbut clan with whom they worked four years ago. According to Tayori, the Rostro means a lot to them, and after finally encountering it, she believes it is a reunion with their ancestors and could potentially strengthen their community. Similarly, Korisepa explains that the Rostro has always existed, but they didn’t know how to access it until now. Witnessing the Rostro was a highly emotional experience for both of them.
In the remote river valley, there are no other rocks quite like this one in shape. It sits perfectly perched overlooking a valley, with a waterfall and basin below that resembles an amphitheater. The markings all over it suggest that it was carved out with simple tools. Interestingly, there are actually two Rostros – a smaller rock formation within the larger one. The boulders along the river channel the flow of water away from hitting the Rostro’s face directly and in a way that would make it impossible for the face to be caused by impact from even the heaviest storms. The Harakbut people have no written history, but the Rostro has been a part of their oral history for generations.
However, as previously mentioned, according to information from the elders, there exist two other ‘Rostros’. This information has been verified by Manuel Roque Prada who claims to have taken a photograph in 2009 while working for South American Exploration, a company contracted by Hunt Oil to conduct seismic explorations.
Recently, the Ministry of Culture in Peru has officially recognized a particular location as the “Cultural Heritage of the Nation”, indicating that it will be safeguarded against any harm. However, this declaration also implies opening the doors to more individuals who are interested in learning about the cultural treasure that lies within the natural protected area of Madre de Dios. It is yet uncertain if this will result in any positive outcomes for the holy site, but let us hope that everything works out for the best.