Chavín De Huántar

An Introduction by James Q. Jacobs

Peru MapChavín was once compared to the Olmecs and depicted as the Mother Civilization of the Andes. The term Chavín has been applied to a developmental stage of Andean history, to an archaeological period, to an art style and to a hypothetical empire. Chavín has been interpreted as a culture, a civilization and a religion.

The idea of a Chavín horizon was proposed by Julio Tello. In the 1930s Tello claimed that Chavín was Peru's oldest civilization. His definition of a pan-regional Chavín culture included attributes of ceramics, architecture and sculpture. The incorporation of sites with some Chavín characteristics eventually led to a perceived culture spanning two millennia and reaching from Ecuador to Argentina. Tello's criteria has since been narrowed and recent research, especially radiocarbon dating, has refined understandings of Chavín and regional site relationships.

In the 1960s John Rowe's Andean chronology defined the Early Horizon as the time beginning with the first appearance of Chavín influence in Ica. This arbitrary criteria requires a definition of Chavín influence and a clear understanding of the Chavín style horizon. The style can be unevenly documented on the coast from Lambayeque to Ica, and from Pacopampa to Ayacucho in the highlands. Adhering to Rowe's definition presents some problems. For one, new dates at Ica might change the Andean chronology. And, as has been subsequently determined, it also means that Chavín influence precedes the first sculptures at Chavín, the content of which defines the style, and precedes Chavín itself.

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Burger, Richard L., 1992. Chavin and the Origins of Andean Civilization, Thames and Hudson, London.

Burger, Richard L., 1992. The Sacred Center of Chavín de Huantar, in The Ancient Americans, Art from Sacred Landscapes, Edited by Richard F. Townsend, The Art Institute of Chicago, Prestel Verlag, Munich.

Druc, Isabelle C., 1998. Ceramic production and distribution in the Chavín sphere of influence. Oxford.

Fung Pineda, Rosa, 1988. The Late Preceramic and Initial Period. In Peruvian Prehistory, Richard W. Keatinge, Ed., Cambridge University Press.

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Pozorski, Thomas and Sheila Pozorski, 1987. Chavín, The Early Horizon and the Initial Period. In The Origins and Development of the Andean State, Edited by Jonathan Haas, Sheila Pozorski and Thomas Pozorski, Cambridge University Press.

von Hagen, Adriana and Craig Morris, 1998, The Cities of the Ancient Andes, Thames and Hudson, London.


An Introduction
Overview of the Old Temple

The Old Temple Circular Court
The New Temple and the Black and White Portal

The Lanzon Tunnels

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