Chavín de Huántar is an archaeological site containing ruins and artifacts constructed c. 1200 BCE and occupied by later cultures until around 400-500 BCE by the Chavín, a major pre-Inca culture. The site is located 160 miles north of Lima, Peru, at an elevation of 10,000 ft, on the edge of the Conchucos Valley.
The site of Chavín de Huántar
The site of Chavín de Huántar was of both of geographical and religious significance to the Chavín.
Occupation at Chavín de Huántar has been carbon dated to at least 3000 BCE, with ceremonial activity occurring primarily toward the end of the second millennium and through the middle of the first millennium BCE. While the fairly large population was based on an agricultural economy, the city's location at the headwaters of the Marañn River, between the coast and the jungle, made it an ideal location for the dissemination and collection of both ideas and material goods. This archaeological site has revealed a great deal about the Chavín culture. Chavín de Huántar 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. Chavín de Huántar became a pan-regional place of importance. People went to Chavín de Huántar as a meeting center: to attend and participate in rituals or consult an oracle.
Findings at Chavín de Huántar indicate that social instability and upheaval began to occur between 500 and 300 BCE, at the same time that the larger Chavín civilization began to decline. Large ceremonial sites were abandoned, some unfinished, and were replaced by villages and agricultural land.
The Chavín civilization was centered on the site of Chavín de Huántar, the religious center of the Chavín people and the capital of the Chavín culture. The temple is a massive flat-topped pyramid surrounded by lower platforms, located in a U-shaped plaza with a sunken circular court in the center. The inside of the temple walls are decorated with sculptures and carvings. Chavín de Huántar was constructed over many stages, starting prior to 1200 BCE, with most major construction over by 750 BCE. The site continued as a ceremonial center until around 500 BCE.
The Circular Plaza at Chavín de Huantar
The Circular Plaza Terrace was built up around the Circular Plaza in order to make the 21-meter diameter plaza artificially sunken.
Tiwanaku is an important Pre-Columbian archaeological site in western Bolivia. It is recognized by Andean scholars as one of the most important precursors to the Inca Empire, flourishing as the ritual and administrative capital of a major state power for approximately 500 years.
The city and its inhabitants left no written history, and the modern local people know little about the ancient city and its activities. However, the site might have been inhabited as early as 1500 BCE. An archaeological theory asserts that around 400 CE, Tiwanaku went from being a locally dominant force to a predatory state. It expanded its reaches into the Yungas and brought its culture and way of life to many other cultures in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. However, Tiwanaku was not exclusively a violent culture. To expand its reach, Tiwanaku used politics to create colonies, negotiate trade agreements (which made the other cultures rather dependent), and establish state cults. Many others were drawn into the Tiwanaku empire due to religious beliefs.
Tiwanaku monumental architecture is characterized by megaliths of exceptional workmanship. The main architectural appeal of the site comes from the carved images and designs on carved doorways and megalithic constructions, such as the Gate of the Sun. Tiwanaku's architecture and skill in stone-cutting reveals a knowledge of descriptive geometry.
The Gate of the Sun is a trilithon that stands nearly ten feet tall and 13 feet wide. Its weight is estimated at approximately ten tons. Although there have been various modern interpretations of the mysterious inscriptions found on the object, the carvings that decorate the gate are believed to possess astronomical significance and may have served a calendrical purpose.
The Gate of the Sun
This site was the spiritual and political center of the Tiwanaku culture.
The Gate of the Sun shares its location with the Kalasasaya, a temple in a large megalithic courtyard over 300 feet long. Since the late twentieth century, researchers have theorized that this was not the gateway's original location. The walls are covered with tenon heads of many different styles, suggesting that the structure was reused for different purposes over time. What stands today is not the original configuration of the megaliths that comprise the Kalasasaya. Scholars believe it was originally constructed in a similar fashion as Stonehenge, with its stones spaced evenly apart and standing vertically.
Walls around the temple Kalasasaya at Tiwanaku
The Kalasasaya temple at Tiwanaku was used as a ceremonial center.
The quarries, from which the stone blocks used in the construction of structures at Tiwanaku came, lie at significant distances from this site, which has led scholars to speculate on how they could have been moved. One theory is that giant andesite stones, weighing over 40 tons, were transported some 90 kilometers across Lake Titicaca on reed boats and then laboriously dragged another 10 kilometers to the city.