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Chavin de Huantar


Chavin de Huantar is an archaeological site containing ruins and artifacts originally constructed by the Chavin, a pre-Inca culture, around 900 BC. The site is located north of Lima, Peru, at an elevation of , east of the Cordillera Blanca at the start of the Conchucos Valley. Chavin de Huantar has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the Chavin relics from this archaeological site are on display in the Museo de la Nacion in Lima.

Chavin de Huantar was initially built around 900 BC. While the fairly large population was based on an agricultural economy, the city's location at the headwaters of the Maranon River, between the coast and the jungle, made it an ideal location for the dissemination and collection of both ideas and material goods. This archeological site is a large ceremonial center that has revealed a great deal about the Chavin culture. Chavin de Huantar served as a gathering place for people of the region to come together and worship. The transformation of the center into a valley-dominating monument had a complex effect; it became a pan-regional place of importance, such that being at Chavin de Huantar had value in itself: for witnessing ritual, consulting an oracle, or entering a cult.

Findings at Chavin de Huantar indicate that social instability and upheaval began to occur between 500 and 300 BC, at the same time that the larger Chavin civilization began to decline. Large ceremonial sites were abandoned, some unfinished, and were replaced by villages and agricultural land. At Chavin de Huantar, no later than 500 BC, a small village replaced the Circular Plaza. The plaza was occupied by a succession of groups, and building stones and stone carvings were salvaged for use in house walls. Multiple occupation floors indicate the village was continuously occupied through the 1940s.

Site description

The Chavin civilization was centered on the site of Chavin de Huantar, the religious center of the Chavin people. The temple is a massive flat-topped pyramid surrounded by lower platforms. It is a U-shaped plaza with a sunken circular court in the center. The inside of the temple walls are decorated with sculptures and carvings. Chavin de Huantar consists of two parts, the old and new temples. The old temple was built around 900 BC and the new temple was added around 400 BC. Chavin de Hunatar was used as a religious center for ceremonies and events. It has also been suggested to have been a home for oracles. The site contains a number of major structures, including Temples A, B, and C, and areas and buildings designated as the Circular Plaza, the Old Temple and New Temple.

Circular Plaza appears to have been a sacred and ritually important open-air space within a ceremonial center. Prior to 800700 BC, this location had a number of functions, including serving as an atrium for entering Temple A through the temple's north staircase. The plaza in the classic period, after 700 BC, is bounded on three sides by major Temples A, B, and C. The plaza is perfectly circular and is very close to in diameter, with a floor consisted of pillow-shaped pavers of yellow diatomite. It appears that a center line of black limestone blocks runs on its architectural east-west axis. Walls of the plaza were constructed of cut stone, principally granite, laid in courses of varying width. The two broadest courses were carved in arcs closest to the western staircase and in two pairs of terminal stones flanking the eastern staircase.

The Old Temple, constructed early in the site's history, was an inward-facing structure composed primarily of passageways built around a circular courtyard. The structure contained obelisks and stone monuments with relief carvings depicting jaguars, caymans, and various other anthropomorphic forms. The Lanzon Gallery, located at the very center, contained a sculpture of the Lanzon, which is assumed to be a supreme deity of Chavin de Huantar. The figure is anthropomorphic, with a feline head and human body. Mortars, pestles, conch-shell trumpets, and many other items have also been found. Many of these artifacts have an anthropomorphic design or decoration and are thought to be associated with Chavin rituals.

The New Temple, constructed between 500 and 200 BC, is also based on a gallery and plaza design and contained many relief sculptures. The Lanzon deity is also present, holding a strombus shell in the right hand while the left hand holds a Spondylus shell.

The architectural design of Chavin de Huantar changed over time through an old temple development into a new temple, although it is much more complex than one major renovation stage as this progression suggests the development would occur. Smaller renovations happened consistently over the Chavin horizon ending by about 500 BC when the new temple was completed. With the simpler design of the old temple, Chavin de Huantar followed the U-shaped ceremonial center design accompanied by a sunken circular plaza. After the new temple was complete, Chavin de Huantar still embodied a U-shaped ceremonial center design. Although the two phases may sound like the site remained similar, the renovations enlarged the site considerably and a larger sunken rectangular plaza was added. The main objective of the renovations would appear to be based in the idea of allowing more people to gather in one place as the site in general expanded.

Excavation of burial sites gave evidence of a small elite class whose tombs contained elaborate burial goods, consisting of precious metals, colorful textiles, and other valuables. Most burials were simpler, with bodies interred in shallow pits with cotton clothing and a simple tool kit.

Local style in art and decoration included scrolls, simple curves, straight lines, and images of wild animals. Chavin sculpture is usually of white granite and black limestone. Carved stone mortars and pestles, conch-shell trumpets, bone tubes and spatulas, and metal spatulas and spoons were found decorated in Chavin style as were various textiles including tapestries. Pottery was found in a wide variety of forms, including bottles and bowls, decorated with a wider range of distinctive elements.

Site significance

This site holds a large amount of geographical and religious significance which may be one of the reasons why the location was used as a large ceremonial center and a center of power for the Chavin culture. Chavin de Huantar is located north of modern day Lima at the merging of two rivers: the Mosna river and the Huanchecsa river. As a result this is site allows for easy transportation and, at the same time, limited access to outsiders. Chavin de Huantar itself is located on a lowland valley where the two rivers merge and high altitude valleys are located nearby. Consequently, the people at Chavin de Huantar were able to cultivate lowland crops such as maize and high altitude crops such as potatoes. The people were also domesticating llamas in the high altitude areas for food and as a means to carrying heavy loads on the steep slopes of the hills.

The religious significance of Chavin de Huantar depends upon the geography of the site. The merging of two large rivers has shown religious significance in past cultures, and thus it makes sense that the location of Chavin de Huantar was utilized as a religious ceremonial center. The convergence of two rivers is referred to as tinkuy, which can be defined as the harmonious meeting of opposing forces. It has been suggested that Chavin de Huantar served as the meeting place of the natural and cosmic forces The area is known to have natural hot springs as well as an awe-inspiring view of the Huantsan peak which could both add to religious significance of the site.

The Present

Beginning in 2004, Global Heritage Fund (GHF) began conservation work at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to GHF, their work has involved:

"stabilizing primary monuments, repairing underground structures, documenting the site with high precision instruments, locating underground structures with non-intrusive technologies, revealing, assessing and when appropriate removing post-Chavin structures to reveal original architecture; cataloguing (sic) artifacts, and improving site interpretation facilities, while the local community is engaged through conservation and craft training, employment, tourism entrepreneurship and regular consultations regarding the management of the site and its environs."

See also

Iperu, tourist information and assistance

Tourism in Peru

External links

Chavin de Huantar: Organ World's largest and oldest?

Exploring Chavin de Huantar

Chavin de Huantar Digital Media Archive , data from a Stanford University/CyArk research partnership (see Exploring Chavin de Huantar link above for additional contextual information)

Global Heritage Fund Conserving Chavin de Huantar's cultural heritage through scientific excellence and community involvement.

MNSU Chavin de Huantar

Global Heritage Network Chavin de Huantar Maps, Pics, Discussion + more.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Chavin de Huantar


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