The Chavin Culture developed in the department of Ancash, in the city of “Chavin of Huantar”, and is considered one of the main pre-Inca cultures or also called pre-Columbian cultures that developed in ancient Peru between 900 BC. until 200 BC.
What is the Chavin Culture?
It is one of the oldest civilizations starting the so-called “Early Horizon”. It receives the name of “Chavín” since it comes from the Quechua “chawpi” which means “in the middle” due to its geographical location. The settlers were probably originally from the jungle regions because the Chavín iconography was based on native animals of that region such as the cayman, the anaconda and especially the jaguar.
The economic activities of the Culture Chavin were based in its beginnings with the hunting of animals and the collection of wild plants to later constitute in a more developed way with agriculture and livestock.
The chavin culture had as its central axis the temple of Chavín de Huantar, which is located at the confluence of the Mosna and Huachecsa rivers (both tributaries of the Marañón River) with the aim of being difficult to access for enemies who want to enter the city.
History of the Chavin Culture
The chavin culture had its origin in the Huari culture in the province of Ancash at an altitude of 3,150 meters above sea level and managed to expand to Cajamarca and Lambayeque to the north and Ica and Ayacucho to the south.
Who discovered the Chavin Culture?
It had the name of “matrix culture” by the discoverer of the chavin culture Julio C. Tello “the father of Peruvian archeology” because it was one of the first civilizations that inspired other cultures of the country over the years, This was demonstrated by the multiple iconographic demonstrations that were found in the artistic manifestations.
Characteristics of the Chavin Culture
This civilization stood out in many aspects, of which we can have as the main characteristics:
- It is considered pre-Inca because it greatly influenced cultures that appeared later until the arrival of the Inca empire.
- It was a polytheistic culture, because they believed in various gods.
- Its main economic activities were agriculture, livestock and barter as a trading system.
- It was based on a theocratic state where the high command that governed were religious authorities.
- His artistic manifestations such as ceramics and sculpture stood out.
- They used wood and bones to make weapons.
- They were experts in working with precious metals like gold, copper, and silver.
Social and Political Organization
Its social and political organization is very involved with religion, as it was based on theocracy, this means that politics was strongly influenced by religious authorities. There were 3 social classes:
The Chavin Priests
They were the class with the highest hierarchy due to their knowledge of the climate, religion and astronomy, factors that brought them closer to the gods.
The Chavin People
It was the most extensive social class and with the lowest hierarchy, it was made up of agricultural workers, ranchers, etc.
The Chavin Nobility
Formed by the warrior social class, in charge of protecting the city against external threats, as well as maintaining internal order among the people.
Chavin Economic Activities
It was the most developed activity of this culture and was the main axis for its growth. They incorporated new agricultural techniques for their time, making use of the chaquitaclla for manual plowing, the irrigation canals through platforms that served as the basis for later civilizations. They stood out in the cultivation of corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, corn, lima beans, etc. that were used for food and also for exchange or barter for trade.
Chavin Cattle Raising
For this activity they dedicated themselves to raising guinea pigs destined for their food and the domestication of auquénids such as the llama and the alpaca to use them as means of loading and transport, because they were prepared to travel long stretches of road without affecting the planting and crops in the area.
Artistic Expressions of the Chavín Culture
If we take a timeline, the Chavín culture developed approximately at the same time that Pharaoh Ramses Segundo ruled Egypt and in Mexico the Olmec Culture developed.
Sculpture of the Chavin Culture
The Chavin Culture stood out for these great sculptures that identified and marked their ideology, manifesting their thoughts, beliefs and their religion through them.
The Chavin stone sculpture was one of the artistic expressions that most captivated the explorers. This had a uniform characteristic manifested not only in the stone but also in the sculpture applied to shells, bones and even ornametal tissues, thus highlighting the “Chavin style” that was a reference for other pre-Inca cultures.
Among its artistic manifestations, the nailed heads stood out, which were stone monoliths that were embedded in the walls of the temple, research has determined various meanings such as the representation of the gods with anthropomorphic figures, representation of priests or symbols of protection against possible attacks.
The monolithic Chavin sandeel is also one of the main sculptures that characterize the Chavin culture. This sculpture has a pointed tusk shape about 4 and a half meters high, it was discovered by Antonio Raimondi and it is believed that this sandeel was used for religious purposes for the initiation phase.
What is the oldest Chavin Temple?
The oldest is the so-called Old Temple (850 BC) and had inside the main oracle of that time: The “Smiling God”, represented in the sculpture called Monolithic Lanzón. It consisted of 3 pyramids, where each one had a function within the ceremonies that were held in the old temple.
The Central Pyramid was built with walls of carved stone and clay, in which the interiors were made with earth and stones, filled with various narrow passageways that were called “galleries”.