Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Earliest Americans- Chavín

Once considered the first civilization of the Peruvian area (1200 B.C.) and is still regularly cited as such in general works, however, it followed the Norte Chico (Caral).   
    The Chavín were a civilization that developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru from 1200 B.C. to 200 B.C. They extended their influence to other civilizations along the coast. The Chavín de Huántar lays at an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet in the Mosna Valley at the confluence of two rivers: the Mosna and the Huanchecsa, the latter flowing down from a tall, snow-capped mountain peak called Huantsán. The center of the site was positioned on a roadway through the mountains that lay about halfway between a tropical forest region to the east and the desert-like coastal plains to the west--a route that had been used by traders for years.
The center of Chavín de Huántar was occupied and built in three phases over a period of nearly seven hundred years. The size and population of the center grew during each phase
    As a result this site allows for easy transportation and, at the same time, limited access to outsiders. Chavín de Huántar (pronounced chah-VEEN deh WAHN-tar) itself is located on a lowland valley where the two rivers merge and high altitude valleys are located nearby.
    Consequently, the people at Chavín de Huántar were able to cultivate lowland crops such as maize and high altitude crops such as potatoes. The people were also domesticating llamas in the high altitude areas for food and as a means to carrying heavy loads on the steep slopes above the rivers. This area is 10,000 feet above sea level and encompasses the quechua, jalca, and puna life zones.
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, whose temple is a massive flat-topped pyramid surrounded by lower platforms, and is famous for its underground passageways
    The most well-known archaeological site of the Chavín era is Chavín de Huántar, located in the Andean highlands of the present-day Ancash region, about 160 miles north of Lima, east of the Cordillera Blanca at the start of the Conchucos Valley. It is believed to have been built no later than 1200 B.C., though occupation at this site began as early as 3000 B.C., and was the religious and political center of the Chavín people. The site has a U-shaped plaza with a sunken circular court in the center, with the inside of the temple walls decorated with sculptures and carvings.
The Chavín site, showing the New Temple (top center) and the Old Temple (top right) with a sunken circular plaza between. A large sunken plaza between two platforms is center left
    The Chavín culture demonstrates the first sophisticated working of metal in South America. Gold dust and nuggets were initially washed from river beds and beaten into thin sheets. The smiths used as little gold as possible—a gram can be hammered into a sheet of ten square feet. The rectangular shape was cut with a knife. Techniques of repoussé and chasing were used to shape the gold from above and below, by stretching the sheet over stone or bone anvils to make the volumes that form the images. Inlaid mineral, probably turquoise, would originally have formed the eyes and other ornaments on the figures.
    The Chavín were known for their beautiful art and design, but Chavín was also innovative with metallurgy and excelled at making hammered gold ornaments.
Chavín hammered gold artwork, first millennium B.C. The hammered Chavín gold forehead ornament (Top) is dated mid-first millennium B.C; The Chavín crown (Bottom Middle) is from Chongyape and dated no later than 500 B.C.; The Chavín gold crown with deity figures (Bottom Right) is dated no later than 200 B.C.
    The Chavín also excelled at textile production, with the production of cloth revolutionized during this time. New techniques and materials were developed, including the use of camel hair, textile painting, and the "resist" type painting style, which is similar to modern day tie-dying.
    Their cotton textiles created during the first millennium B.C. contain both painted and structured images, which closely resemble both the carved stone images found on the temple of Chavín de Huántar and the images portrayed on the metal and stone artifacts attributed to Chavín burials. Through iconographic analysis it is possible to easily trace the influence that Chavín images had on the imagery of subsequent Andean cultures, but it is also quite possible to trace the influence that the Chavín structural techniques had on subsequent Andean weaving, and the relationship between the use of textile structures in the Chavín textiles and the use of those structures in cultures that show direct Chavín visual influence and on cultures whose visual connection to Chavín iconography seems remote.
Chavín examples of painted and woven textiles in the first millennium B.C.
    While Chavín de Huántar probably does not fit the definition of a true city in the eyes of most scholars, this ancient bustling ceremonial center—typically run by priests and rulers, in which people from surrounding areas gather to practice the ceremonies of their religion, often at large temples and plazas built specifically for this purpose—many of the seeds of later Andean civilization were sown. Functioning primarily as a religious center, Chavín de Huántar became an increasingly complex society, with a robust economy, social classes, job specialization, and an elite group of rulers. Between 500 and 200 B.C. The Chavín people made remarkable innovations in religion, the arts, engineering, architecture, and trade, and their advancements spread to other cultures throughout the Central Andes. The Chavín were responsible for uniting a large part of the region for the first time, and their cultural influence helped the entire Central Andes region develop.
Secret and underground tunnels, air vents, and water channels honeycomb the subterranean levels of Chavín de Huántar
    Inside the Old Temple is a remarkable network of passageways, secret chambers, tunnels, and air vents, none of which can be seen from the outside. Strategically placed ducts bring in odd geometric patterns of light and shadow as well as fresh air. Underneath the temple there is an elaborate system of water canals. The water came from the two nearby rivers, and experts believe that when it was released through special floodgates into these canals, it produced a mighty roar, perhaps like that of a jaguar; to the people of that time, it might have seemed that the temple itself was roaring. Pilgrims gathering in the courtyard of the temple may have been equally awestruck by what they saw and heard.
    In some of the inner rooms that were open to the public, air vents allowed voices to carry over long distances, so that someone in a central area could be heard in a remote room as if they were standing in it. In the courtyard of the Old Temple was a stone frieze (a band of carved decoration running around the top part of the temple wall) depicting half-human, half-animal figures. Like the protruding heads on the outer temple wall, these figures are very similar to those on the walls of the sunken courtyard at Tiahuanaco, many miles to the southeast, suggesting connections between early cultures that the archaeologists either reject or have failed to try and connect.
Top: Heads on walls at Chavín de Huántar in north central Peru; Bottom: Heads on wall at Tiahuanaco near Lake Titicaca in southeast Peru
    Though found many miles apart and considered to be totally different cultures (different people) than one another, note the similarities between the stone heads set in stone walls at both Chavín de Huántar in north central Peru, and Tiahuanaco in southeastern Peru. Also, note the same similarity of style in decorating stone walls with carvings. Such similarities lead archaeologists and anthropologists to normally suggest the same culture or two cultures heavily influenced by one another; however, in Andean Peru, cultures are considered separate from one another and are not linked to a common people. Yet, this and other evidence suggests that these people were all inter-connected.
Note the similarity in style in these stone wall carvings: Top: Found at Tiahuanaco; Bottom: Found at Chavín de Huántar

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