Chavin (Archaeological Site)
Chavin (Archaeological Site)
Cultural Peru Latin America And The Caribbean Ancash Department, Huari Province, Chavin District

The village of Chavín de Huántar, located in a high valley of the Peruvian Andes at an altitude of 3,177 m was constructed near one of the oldest known and most admired pre-Hispanic sites.

This site gave its name to the Chavín Culture, one of the ancient civilizations of South America, which developed roughly between 1500 and 300 BC. It preceded the first regional civilizations such as that of Salinar Maranga and Nasca.

Visited on a regular basis by travellers during the 19th century, Chavín was excavated from 1919 by the Peruvian archaeologist, Julio C. Tello, whose work contributed to the site's international reputation. In 1945, a good many of the monuments were covered up by a disastrous landslide. Moreover, Chavín was affected by an earthquake in 1970.

The 'archaeological project of Chavín', which since 1980 has been the focus of joint efforts on the part of Federico Villareal University and the Volkswagen Foundation, has made possible the resumption of excavation and safeguard plan for the site under the supervision of the Instituto Nacionale de Cultura.

The site consists of a number of terraces and squares having constructions of bonded stones. The prevailing ceremonial and cultural nature of the entire Chavín complex is very clear. It characterizes the architecture of the 'Lanzon temple', the 'Tello pyramid' which are both built upon a complex network of galleries, and the sculpted decor of the immense ornate megaliths: the Lanzon, a granite monolith of more than 4 m in height, the Raimondi stele, a 2 m block of diorite, the Tello obelisk, etc.

The bas-relief sculptures on slabs, lintels and columns is characterized by an essentially zoomorphic repertory (jaguars, snakes, condors, caimans) to which human faces are added here and there. The renowned cabezas claves, a sort of round corbel embossed on the wall stones (one of which still exists in situ on the 'Castillo' wall at the temple's southern flank) are one of the most gripping creations of the monumental art of Chavín.