The ruins of Chavín, located at an altitude of 3200 m in the Cordillera Blanca, were once the center of the so-called Chavín culture, one of the oldest pre-Columbian cultures. The center of the complex is the monumental temple complex with the impressive image of the god “El Lanzón”.
Sanctuary of Chavin: facts
|Official title:||Sanctuary of Chavin|
|Cultural monument:||fortress-like temple complex of 5400 m² piled up from granite blocks with a three-storey, trapezoidal main temple with outer walls made of volcanic rock originally up to 9 m high and the impressive image of the gods »El Lanzón«, a 4.53 m high monolith with clawed hands and jaguar’s flash|
|Country:||Peru, Cordillera Blanca|
|Location:||Chavín de Huántar, northeast of Lima, in the valley of the Río Mozna|
|Meaning:||one of the best preserved pre-Columbian monuments of one of the oldest ancient American cultures|
Chavin sanctuary: history
|around 700-200 BC Chr.||The heyday of the Chavín culture|
|1616||Visit of the Spanish traveler and chronicler Antonio Vasquez de Espinosa|
|1919||first archaeological investigations|
|1934||Exposing the east facade of the so-called “Castillo”|
|1970||Destruction from an earthquake|
|since 1980||further archaeological investigations and exposures|
|2004||Preservation and conservation of the ruins threatened by collapse with the help of the Global -Heritage Fund|
Human sacrifice in the granite maze
As lost as the place east of the White Cordillera seems to be today, it was just as important in the past. According to aristmarketing, even at the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, centuries after the heyday of the temple complexes, the Conquistadores compared the pre-Columbian cult center with Rome as the center of Christianity. The temple is a spacious complex built in two different phases, the older of which consists of a sunken, round courtyard and a pyramid-like building. Both on the outside and inside there are decorations in the form of sculpted heads of fantasy beings. The rites practiced in the temple took place in closed rooms, accessible only to a few people at the same time, and in spacious courtyards before the eyes of countless believers.
Today it is difficult to imagine how the deities were experienced in the first millennium BC. In the center of the underground tunnel system is »El Lanzón«, a four and a half meter high statue of a deity with terrible fangs and clawed hands, the hair of which looks as if it were made from snakes. In view of this terrifying image of God and knowing that an uninterrupted, deep humming noise was generated in the underground tunnels by a cleverly constructed, stair-like waterfall, one can confidently think of deeply frightened believers who took part in the sometimes bloody rites.
The temple of Chavín was not dedicated to a single deity, but rather formed a kind of cosmological model. Here, as in other early temples of the same time, there was a pyramid on the one hand, which obviously served the worship of a central heavenly deity, on the other hand, courtyards, whose statues represented cat-like, threatening deities. They are overloaded with symbols of a predatory animal world that threatens humans: fangs, claws, beaks of griffins, snake bodies and wide open jaws determine their appearance. These gods, who can only be worshiped with horror and fear, were understood by the believers not only to be the ancestors of animals and plants, but also of themselves. one could understand them as protectors at the same time. The assumption, in turn, that these gods were also thought of as the ancestors of animate nature, also made them more accessible and available. Another aspect was probably just as important for that time: The world of the Chavín culture accompanied the emergence of hierarchical societies in the Andes. Until then, the residents of the Andes lived in rather undifferentiated tribal and village societies. In the course of the further division of labor and due to the use of sophisticated equipment that allowed higher harvest yields, but at the same time required the coordinated action of larger societies in the construction and management of complex canals for artificial irrigation, domination and dependency developed. In such a society a thought which certain powerful deities understood as terrible and threatening, but at the same time made them accessible through kinship, a good reason to secure human inequality. Rulers and priests, who were understood as descendants of the gods, were then threatening and protective at the same time.