Although the subject of petroglyphs is touched upon only lightly in the beautiful book Arte Prehispanico de Venezuela, published by the Foundation Eugenio Mendoza,[1] it suggests possible similarities with the petroglyphs found in Hawaii.  I was especially struck by the term mini-mortero applied to a small cavity often surrounded by concentric lines. 

The suggestion may point to an actual use for this small cavity.  In Hawaii there exist similar designs.  We know perhaps more about their meaning and intended use thanks to the relatively modern age of the petroglyphs and corroborative literary aboriginal sources. 

Shared with many other cultures, the Hawaiian believed in magic and the need for the sorcerer to take hold of parts of the human body of the person to be harmed.  These usually would be hair, nail filings, or specifically, in the case of a newborn child, it would be the umbilical cord discarded after birth.  A great secrecy surrounded as a result the disposal of the cord; some dried ones are still to be found deep inside the cracks of rocks, etc. 

It is quite possible that the mini-morteros that also exist in Hawaii, usually framed with concentric lines that underline their importance, were actually used to mash the umbilical cord of the newborn with a mini-pestle and thus destroy its identity, putting it out of reach of potential sorcerers. 

This is my personal suggestion, not as yet published or accepted by Hawaiian archaeologists.  It has validity, however, given our knowledge of Hawaiian ways.  A similar use for the Venezuelan mini-morteros could also be an explanation for their existence. 


[1] Arte prehispánico de Venezuela, Caracas: Fundación Eugenio Mendoza, 1971. 

Edited by John Charlot.