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South America, Argentina, Cerro Gallan, Province of Salta

Cerro Gallan, Province of Salta. Although our Austro-Swedish Andean Expedition did some excavations in the ruins of the Indian town of Guan- chin and of the fortress of Batungasta near Fiambalá, it was not there, near the Ojos del Salado, but 225 miles north, in the province of Salta, that we planned to do our chief archaeological work. Some years before, the Salzburg climber, Dr. Dangl, had discovered some walls built at about 19,000 feet on the summit of the striking volcano, Cerro Gallan, which rises above the high desert. The second, objective of our expedition [The first was to climb the Ojos del Salado.—Ed.] was to investigate this extraordinary trench-like construction at that high altitude. Starting from our base at 15,500 feet, we established a high camp at 17,500 feet. At 19,000 feet I managed to dig out and investigate systematically the three rubble-covered rectangular walls. I worked together with my Swedish companion, Anders Bolinder, on the first day, and alone on the next two, after he fell sick. It took all my energy and I was often close to exhaustion. Among other things I dug up three ancient Indian statuettes made of silver and a material composed of reddish shells and clothed in brilliantly colored cloth. There were also charred pieces of wood, a tiny woolen rag, charred bones, as well as three stone clubs, all of which indicate that it must have been a primitive site for making offerings in Incan times. I nearly lost my life when a tunnel collapsed just after I emerged. Experts have confirmed our beliefs that these objects did originate in the era of the Incas.

Matthias Rebitsch