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The enigmatic Chavin culture of Perú

The Chavín culture was one of the most important of the pre-Inca era. Its beginnings date back to 1200 B.C. until 200 BC, within the period called ´formative´. Its main center, the Chavín de Huantar Archaeological Site, located in the district of the same name, in the province of Huari (Áncash) in Peru, was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational Organization, Science , and Culture (UNESCO) in 1985.

This complex keeps a great artistic expression represented in its particular sculptures, among which the famous ´Heads Clavas´ and the ´Lanzón Monolithic´ stand out. Likewise, its worship centers stand out for the architecture represented in its terraces and squares, the same ones that are surrounded by carved stone structures. Clear examples are the area of ​​the Pyramid of Tello, the Circular Plaza, the Rectangular Plaza, the North and South North Platforms, the New Temple and the Old Temple.

Different historians affirm that the religion in the Chavín culture was polytheistic, they worshiped large animals such as snakes with hair and long fangs. Other of their deities were food represented by an alligator and the underworld illustrated with an anaconda.

In their large monoliths the gods they worshiped were represented, each of them had spiritual significance and their character and interpretation were strictly sacred.

Chavin de Huantar Temple

It was built in two stages called the Old Temple (900 – 500 B.C.) and the New Temple (500 – 200 B.C.). The Old Temple has a U-shaped architectural pattern. It has underground galleries with cells that contain niches in the walls and protruding nails, which, according to research, was used to obtain some type of lighting. In the center of the Old Temple is the Monolithic Lanzón, the supreme divinity of the Chavín culture.

With respect to the New Temple, its structure is broader and is preceded by the Falconids Portico, which is the portal of the Temple of Chavín de Huantar, the same one that has in the center two cylindrical columns of black stone that support a cantilevered lintel as a ledge. This sanctuary joins the Plaza Hundida in whose center, it is said, was the Obelisk Tello.

Nail Heads

The so-called ´Heads Clavas´ are zoomorphic faces carved in stone, located horizontally and equidistant. Some investigations affirm that they protected the temples, and others refer that they were used to drive away evil spirits or that they were representations of the heads of the enemies of the culture.

The Nail Heads show mythical chavín beings and their name is due to the fact that they all had an elongated structure on the back, the same ones that served to fix them on the walls. Currently, only one remains in its original place, in the Chavín de Huantar Temple.

Monolithic sandeel

Its researcher and discoverer, Julio C. Tello, a Peruvian anthropologist recognized as the ‘Father of Peruvian archeology’, named it sandeel because of its ‘spear’ shape. The Monolithic Lanzón is the supreme deity of the Chavín culture, physically represented by a granite stone idol.

It measures 4.53 meters high and is located in the galleries of the Old Temple. It has anthropomorphic characteristics, a face with feline fangs, and human arms, legs, ears, and the five fingers (feet and hands). The latter end in the form of a claw. Symbolically and due to its position as a stone spine, it is presumed that the Lanzón was in the Chavín Culture the mediator between heaven and earth.

Tello Obelisk

The imposing Obelisk Tello, which has a height of 2.52 meters and a width of 32 centimeters, is the most complex figure of the Chavín objects. It was made based on trapezoidal cut granite and represents a particular divinity: the union of two alligators that have thick lips and sharp teeth that come out of their mouth. It is a lithic sculpture in the form of a prism and sculpted on its four faces, on whose surface you can see men, birds, snakes, cats and plants typical of Chavín. According to beliefs, this species of divine monster fed on all of them.

Estela Raimondi

It is a polished granite monolith on only one of its faces, whose name is a tribute to Antonio Raimondi, Italian naturalist and geographer who moved it to Lima for study and conservation. It is 1.98 meters high, 74 centimeters wide and 17 centimeters thick. It represents a god with two staffs in his hands, which, according to the Peruvian archaeologist and historian Federico Kauffmann Doig, is similar to the god represented in the Monolithic Lanzón.

The Raimondi Stela had a great influence on the Chavín culture, both in its space and time. It is important to note that it is currently housed in the National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History of Peru.

The enigmatic Chavín culture, which spread throughout the coast and central Andes of the Peruvian territory, was an important pre-Columbian civilization that had a great influence on other contemporary civilizations. Its buildings, galleries, cultural and religious (ceremonial) expressions.