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Chavin Culture Unites Peru

Chavin refers to an extinct culture that flourished in pre-Inca Peru circa 900 BC where it is listed on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History. It got its name from chavi, the Caribbean term for feline or tiger or the Quechua chawpin which means “in the center.” It may have also been a religious cult or political empire of which the center is Chavin de Huantar in what is today the Ancash region in Peru. At its height, the Chavin culture’s influence radiated from its center in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range to the northern and southern tips of modern day Peru facing the Pacific Ocean.

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Shared Common Art Styles

One of the most distinct aspects of Chavin culture is the shared common art style throughout the region, and its influence can be found in sites far from the Chavin De Huantar religious center. These include the Kuntur Wasi in the northern mountain range of Peru, as well as the Kotosh and Huaricoto sites in the southeast.

Chavin
“Model of the archaeological site of Chavín de Huántar.”

The Kotosh Period culture rose before the Chavin culture, but ceramics and gold artifacts belonging to the Chavin culture have been found in Kotosh elite burials. Chavinoid artifacts found in the Kotosh sites include stirrup spouts, cloud-shaped designs, rocker stampings, and black-polished incised pottery. Similar designs on reliefs and monoliths were also found in Kuntur Wasi site.

The Huaca de los Reyes building of the Caballo Muerto archeological complex features feline heads mounted on walls that are similar to Chavin art style. The Chavin culture influence is also evident in the Pacopampa culture pottery.

Inter-regional Trade

Its location between the Pacific Coast and the eastern jungle made Chavin de Huantar a center for trade. This is evident in the iconography of jungle plants and animals that can be found in Chavin stone sculptures and ceramics. In addition, the U-shaped layout of the temple and the sunken plazas in circular or rectangular shapes can be found in both Chavin and coastal cultures.

Profile feline heads, which were prominent features of coastal cultures, were integrated into Chavin stoneworks. Spondylus shells from Ecuador, as well as cinnabar and obsidian from south-central highlands of Peru that were recovered at Chavin de Huantar are strong indicators that far-reaching trade occurred at the site.

Warfare and Conquest

The Casma/Sechin culture that came before the Chavin was a particularly violent one and they carved depictions of ax-wielding warriors with mutilated human remains on their city walls. In contrast, depictions of conquest and warfare are absent in Chavin de Huantar. This may be an indication that the Chavins did not spread their influence through invasion, but through trade and religion.

References:
Staller, John E. Pre-Columbian Landscapes of Creation and Origin. New York, NY: Springer, 2008.
http://www.ancient.eu/Chavin_Civilization/
http://www.um.u-tokyo.ac.jp/publish_db/Bulletin/no03/no03003.html
Fagan, Brian M., and Charlotte Beck. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cerr_1/hd_cerr_1.htm
Picutre By DtarazonaOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15771563
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