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They say that news came how a miracle had happened at Cuzco, how a yauirca or amaro [large snake] had come forth from the height of Pachatusan - a very ugly beast, half a league long and big, two and one-half fathoms in breadth, and with ears and teeth and beard. And [it] comes by Yuncaypampa and Sinca, and thence enters the lagoon of Quibipay; thereupon there come out of Asoncata two sacacas of fire and pass [over] to Potina of Arequipa, and another [one] comes from lower down than Guamanca, which is three or four very tall heights covered with snow, the which [it is said, or they say] were animals with wings and ears and tails and four feet, and on the shoulders many spines like of fish, and from afar [they] say that it appeared to them all fire." (90)
Analyzing this rather incoherent statement, it reduces itself to the following: The two sacacas (an Aymará, not a Quichua word, 91), aflame, are represented as going from the nevada of Ausangate, east of Cuzco, to southeastward of Arequipa. Another fiery object is said to have come from Huamanca (Guamanga), or Ayacucho, between Lima and Cuzco, in the mountains; hence the presumption is that several eruptions occurred almost simultaneously in central and southern Peru during the course of the fifteenth century. The simultaneous appearance of several comets (which the description of Salcamayhua might also recall) is not easily conceivable, and it seems more probable that the fiery serpents, etc., indicate streams of lava. Later on a famous fetish is mentioned (in the northern sections of the present department of Arequipa) as vomiting fire, which might be another allusion to some volcanic outbreak (92).
Cuzco and its vicinity are noted for frequent and violent earthquakes. If the work of Fernando de Montesinos were reliable, we would find in it several references to precolumbian earthquakes of considerable magnitude. This author, pretending to derive his information from reliable Indian tradition, writes of a century of disastrous seismic commotions, beginning with the first cycle of our era and extending into the second (93). Subsequently he refers to eruptions and earthquakes in Ecuador (94). But Montesinos is a very suspicious source, and all that can be safely admitted from his assertion is that seismic phenomena were as active at Cuzco in early times as they are to-day. The Bolivian Andes, generally called
the "Royal Cordillera," has no trace of eruptive rocks (95); and I have not been able to obtain any Indian lore that even remotely might be construed as hinting at precolumbian volcanic disturbances in that great eastern chain. But the lore of the Aymará is yet imperfectly known. The coast range, which in a few of its peaks, like the Sarjama, or Sajama, is taller than the other, has dormant if not extinct volcanoes. Such is the one mentioned, which is said to rise more than 22,000 feet, the Huallát-iri, and perhaps the Parina-kota (96). The form of the "Tetillas" near Sajama also recalls eruptive cones. Farther south there are active volcanoes close to the Bolivian frontier, within Chilean territory (97). It might be that the tales recorded by Cieza about the coming of "Viracocha" from the south, with "such great power that of heights he made plains and of the plains great mountains" (98), are an allusion to volcanic phenomena in precolumbian times among the elevated peaks of the Bolivian coast range. If Sarjama is the true name of what now is generally called Sajama, it would mean "he (or one) who starts or rises" (99), in which event it is either in allusion to the shape of the mountain, which rises to a great height as a steep, isolated pyramid, or, perhaps, a dim recollection of ancient upheavals.
With the exception of its southwestern portion, which borders on Chile, Bolivia has been visited but little by earthquakes within historic times. Of these visitations that of 1582 worked considerable damage (100), and that of May, 1896, was also of considerable violence (101). Of precolumbian seismic catastrophes I have not, as yet, found any allusion aside from what the Viracocha tale above mentioned might indicate. The puna about La Paz is traversed by trachytic dykes and zones and covered in spots with a thin volcanic layer (102). That which has been said about an eruption of the mountain called Tuanáni, near Kamata, in the province of Muñecas in the eastern province of La Paz, has subsequently been disproved. That peak, although smaller in mass, resembles the "Altar" in Ecuador; and it may have been a volcano, shattered by an explosion in times long past (103).
I may be permitted to allude here to a similarity in the distribution of volcanoes in the northern and southern parts of the Amer
ican continent. In each hemisphere there are found two main groups a northern and a southern. Thus there is in North America an accumulation of craters in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and California, near the Pacific coast (104), and another, more numerous cluster, beginning in Mexico and extending almost as far south as Panama. East of these two groups North America has no volcanoes; and they appear in greatest number where the mainland
In South America the region east of the Andes is free from eruptive peaks; they hug the Pacific coast. There is a northwestern group, embracing the volcanoes of Colombia and Ecuador, and an extreme southern one, beginning in southwestern Peru and extending to the southern extremity of the continent in Chile. The former contains a relatively small number, the latter a much greater one, Chile alone claiming at least forty. How many of these are active at present or were active in the early part of the sixteenth century is not yet ascertained, as there is practically no available material on the subject of precolumbian eruptions of Chilean volcanoes.
The historian Alonzo de Gongora Marmolejo, in his work finished in 1575, states: "There are also throughout the Cordillera many volcanoes that commonly [ordinarily] emit fire, and more in winter than in summer." (105)
Alonso de Ovalle, in 1646, mentioned sixteen volcanoes "that have broken out at different times, and caused effects of no less wonder than stupefaction, as well as fright in all the land." (106) Felipe Gomez de Vidaurre, in 1748, spoke of fourteen volcanoes and alluded to that of Peteroa (about lat. 35° 50' S., in the department of Curico) as "this ancient volcano." (107)
Alonzo de Ercilla, the poet historian of Chile (whither he went in 1554, fourteen years after the conqueror Valdivia), states that earthquakes were of frequent occurrence at this time and describes the volcano of Villarica as constantly active. (108)
Beyond a probability of precolumbian eruptions in Chile, especially of the peaks of Peteroa and Villarica, the above indications do not apply.
Cosme Bueno, in the latter part of the eighteenth century,
AM. ANTH., N. S., 8-5.
asserted that the Indians of the district of Concepcion worshiped volcanoes, but the statement is not sufficiently clear to establish this as the survival of an ancient custom. (109)
Vidaurre relates the following tradition current among Chilean aborigines during his time:
"Among the fables which these Indians tell, some knowledge of the universal deluge is disclosed, as clearly shown by the following practice during the great earthquakes. When one of these occurs, all run at once to the mountains called by them tenten, that is, to such as have three points [end in three summits]. To these [tops] they carry food for many days, and wooden platters on their heads. They say that in ancient times there came a great deluge which inundated the whole land except the tentenes, for a certain virtue [faculty] they have of floating on the waters. For this reason they [the Indians] seek to escape, fearing lest the sea, after such a violent movement of the land, should turn again to .drown it; also that they carry these wooden platters on their heads because it might happen that the waters should rise so high that the tentenes would strike the sun and their heads be burned if they did not use that precaution." (110)
Subsequent authors, including the well-known Jesuit historian Molina, have copied this statement of Vidaurre with slight variations (111). The tale, if primitive, implies seismic disturbances in Chile during periods of comparatively remote antiquity.
Should the folklore herein contained be authentic and precolumbian, as some parts of it undoubtedly are, we might infer that volcanic activity in western South America was greater at certain times previous to the Spanish conquest than it is now. Thus the active volcanoes in Ecuador are reduced to three or four, whereas there are unmistakable evidences of a number of others having been in eruption long before, but have become either extinct or are temporarily slumbering. Between Ecuador and southern Peru volcanic activity ceased before the advent of the Spaniards. In regard to earthquakes the testimony is more indefinite, although it would seem. that there also has been a gradual decrease in frequency as well as in violence. This can be inferred, not from data anterior to the sixteenth century, but from a comparison of the numbers of unusually
strong seismic phenomena in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Since the data concerning these disturbances do not pertain to the domain of Indian tradition and folklore, they are not appropriate to this paper.
1. Piedrahita was a native of what now is Colombia, but was New Granada in his time. According to Joaquin Acosta (Compendio histórico del Descubrimiento y Colonizacion de la Nueva Granada en el Siglo décimo sexto, 1848, p. 385 et seq.) he was born at Bogotá in the beginning of the seventeenth century" fué hijo legítimo de Domingo Hernandez de Soto Piedrahita y de Catalina Collantes, y bautizado en la parroquia de las Nieves.' He became Bishop of Santa Marta in 1669 (p. 386), Bishop of Panamá in 1676, and died at Panamá in 1688 (p. 387). His age at the time of his death being given as seventy, he must have been born in 1618. The title of his book is Historia general de las Conquistas del Nuevo Reyno de Granada (Antwerp, 1688). The names, or titles, of Bochica are from that work (lib. 1, cap. III, p. 17). Nemterequeteva is considered also by Fray Pedro Simon as distinct from Bochica. Ternaux-Compans, Essai sur l'ancien Cundinamarca, p. 8.
2. Piedrahita, Historia general (lib. 1, cap. III, p. 18). The estimate of the dimensions of the cataract given by Piedrahita is more than liberal. Humboldt, Vues des Cordillères et Monuments des peuples indigènes de l'Amérique (1816, vol. 1, p. 92), states: "La rivière se rétrécit beaucoup près de la cascade même, où la crévasse, qui parait formée par un tremblement de terre, n'a que dix á douze mètres d'ouverture. A l'époque des grandes sécheresses, le volume d'eau qui, en deux bonds, se précipite á une profondeur de cent soixante-quinze mètres, présente encore un profil de quatre-vingt-dix mètres carrés.
3. According to Joaquin Acosta (Compendio, p. 380), Simon was born at La Parrilla in 1574. The date and place of his death are unknown
4. Noticias historiales de las Conquistas de Tierra firme (MS. in the Lenox branch of the New York Public Library), pt. II, noticia quarta, cap. iv, fol. 260, has Chuchauiva; fol. 265, Cuchauiva.
5. Ibid. (pt. 11, noticia Iv, fol. 265): "El fundamto q° huvo para adorar estos Yndios con ofrecimos el arco del cielo Cuchauiva aunq embuelto en fabulas fue de esta manera. . . Fundan sobre esto su razon diciendo q por ciertas cosas qe havia usada con ellos al parecer en su agravio el Dios Chibchachum, le murmuraban los Yndios y le ofendian en secreto y en publico : con qo indignado Chibchachum trató de castigarlos anegandoles sus tierras, para lo cual crió ó trajo de otras partes los dos rios dichos de Sopo y Tibito, con que crecieron tanto las aguas del valle, q no dandose manos como dicen la tierra del valle á consumirlas se venía á