Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Earliest Americans—Cupisnique

Cupisnique was a pre-Columbian culture which flourished from around 1300 to 200 B.C. along what is now Peru’s Pacific Coast, stretching to the north and south of the modern-day city of Chiclayo.
    Located in the Cupisnique valley in the region of Cajamarca, the land has an average elevation of about 1100 feet above sea level, classed as a subtropical desert, and is a highly earthquake prone area. It has a hyper-arid climate, with February the warmest month, and the temperature relatively constant during the year.
    In the lower Cupisnikque and Jequetepeque Valleys, very ancient Paijan settlement sites are widespread, though they were confined primarily to the coastal plains and adjacent foothills. These sites diminish considerably once away from the northern coast, with the Cupsinique culture or civilization making up the bulk of this area’s occupation that later flourished.
    One site of this culture has been named “Collud” by researchers, an adobe temple discovered in 2008 in the Lambayeque valley. The temple includes imagery of the "spider god," thought to be associated with rainfall, hunting and warfare. The spider god image combines a spider's neck and head, with the mouth of a large cat and the beak of a bird
A 3,000-year-old temple built by the people of the Cupisnique culture, which thrived from roughly 1500 to 1000 B.C., in the Lambayeque valley on Peru's north coast 
    The site of the adobe temple has been called Collud, and is the third discovered in the area uncovered in recent years. The finds suggest that the three valley sites may have been part of a large capital for divine worship, said archaeologist Walter Alva, director of the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum. Alva and colleagues started the dig in November 2007, when they discovered a 4,000-year-old temple and a mural painting at the Ventarron site in the valley. Both the temple and mural were the oldest ever found in the Americas.
Walter Alva, director of the Museum of Sipan, pointing out to  the Peruvian Minister of Education, Jose Antonia Chang, the wall reliefs. The similarities of all these sites has many archaeologists confused who have always claimed them to be separate cultures 
    The culture had a distinctive style of adobe clay architecture but shared artistic styles and religious symbols with the later Chavin culture which arose in the same area at a later date. The relationship between Chavin and Cupisnique is not well understood, and the names are sometimes used interchangeably. For instance, the scholar Alana Cordy-Collins treats as Cupisnique a culture lasting from 1000 – 200 BC, which are the dates some associate with the Chavin culture. Izumi Shimada calls Cupisnique a possible ancestor of Mochica (Moche) culture with no mention of Chavin. Anna C. Roosevelt refers to "the coastal manifestation of the Chavin Horizon...dominated by the Cupisnique style.”
    He claims the Cupisnique and Chavin shared the same gods and the same architectural and artistic forms, showing intense religious interaction among the cultures of the [Early] Formative Period from the north coast to the mountains and down to the central Andes.
    The temples are similar in size, roughly 1,640 feet long and 984 feet wide.
Collud has a monumental clay staircase with 25 steps, which archaeologists believe might have inspired the later Zarpan temple’s clay staircase. The Chavin did not build clay structures in the Andes, where significant rainfall threatened their stability. But clay structures were typical of the Cupisnique culture, which developed on the arid north coast. It’s unknown how the two cultures interacted, if at all, experts say. “This place is the testimony of two cultures overlapping and will help clarify what is Cupisnique and what is Chavin,” Walter Alva said. On the other hand, there are numerous similarities if archaeology chooses to look at and evaluate them that way.
    Pieces of structures so far found at the site of Collud may lead to the discovery of a fourth or fifth temple, and hopefully archaeologists feel that the ongoing excavations will demonstrate what happened to the site as north-coast cultures declined between 900 and 700 B.C.
    The far north coast in earlier times was very important, but it has been largely ignored because there’s so little information—and there are hopes that this site could provide information to change all that. As an example, does this center continue to be important or does it collapse? Does the Cupisnique continue to flourish independently or in close contact with the Chavin? Archaeologist Ignacio Alva predicts the site will show that the temple complex transformed itself, but did not collapse.
The Cupisnique style of art dating to 1250 B.C. was quite unique, high-quality, hand-molded with incised decoration, using human and feline serpent designs and plentiful stirrup-handled and spout vases.
    Recent excavations by Lumbreras in the galleries at Chavin produced pottery in the shapes and with the ornament of Cupinsnique, showing their identity as highland and coastal versions of the same art, with some of this art appearing much later in Moche (III) period. The 1000-year later Moche stirrup spouts are most closely related to the Cupinsnique pottery. In addition, the Recuay A, Salinar, Gallinazo, and Early Mochica, together with Cupisnique B and Chavin-Castillo art, all seem to cluster in the centers immediately around 500 B.C. Also, Vicus pottery from shaft-tomb cemeteries near Ecuador resembled both Cupisnique and Mochica classes. Of course, the ancient names of all these cultures are simply unknown and while archaeologists like to separate them into different cultures, at least their art seems quite similar and even identical, like would be the case if they were made by a single people located throughout the land, as seen in the Nephite nation in the Book of Mormon.
    Between the similar Cupisnique and later Moche cultures, another group called the Salinar took up residence in the area. This group seems necessary to fill the “short transition period between the Cupisnique and the Moche cultures” since archaeologists insist that these were two separate people and cultures—consequently, an intermediate group is needed, which they call the Salinar. As Izumi Shimada (Pampa Grande and the Mochica Culture) puts it, “As a whole, the Salinar occupation had an impressive coastal spread, spanning the Lambayoque to the north and the Santa and Nepeña to the south, primarily concentrated in the middle to upper valley section.” There was a good deal of overlap or continuity in forms and decorative techniques between Cupisnique and Salinar ceramics, which would suggest that at least the Salinar style was a hybrid product of Coastal and highland traditions.
Salinar pottery very similar and in some ways identical to Cupinsnique pottery 
    There seems little question that since all three of these cultures have basically identical artwork, pottery and artifacts, one could also conclude that it was simply one culture or people scattered over a thousand year period.

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