Friday, October 18, 2019

The Ancient Sites of Kunturwasi and Tantarica

Leaving from Chilete, and going in the complete opposite direction from San Pablo, lies Contumazá and the ruins of Tantarica. Built about the same time as Kunturwasi, Tantrica has had little work performed there other than to date the complex around the last century BC.
    Further up the valley from the “hillside town” and pyramids of Ventanillas, the largest of which measures 165 feet by 214 feet and stands 40 feet high, which majority of the ceramics found are Chimú or Lambayeque in style, the hillside east of the pyramids is filled with terraces and structures. These are presumably residences, and found in rectangular compounds concentrated near Tembladera.
Map showing Tantarica and Kuntur Wasi and in the Central Highlands and other settlements in the area

Due to the construction of the Gallito Ciego Dam 20 miles inland from Pacasmayo, and the quarrying by modern factories, have many of the sites are now destroyed. Petroglyphs are present throughout the Jequetepeque Valley, but the site with the greatest concentration of petroglyphs is Yonán, located at the opening of Quebrada de Chausis (Chausis’ Break) which leads to the highlands. There is also the Quebrada del Felino (Gorge of the Cat), a Sechin-style site located nearby, boasting an enormous petroglyph of a feline that measures 12 by 10 feet, and is the largest rock art image of a cat in South America, and probably the largest cat petroglyph in the world, as it is not even challenged by the famous almost six-foot long lion petroglyph at Shuwaymas in Saudi Arabia, discovered in 2001.
The Jequepeteque River running through the Jequepeteque Valley to Yonán. Note the mountainous region all around the valley

Along the right bank of the Jequetepeque River ravine are the coastal defenses with rocks, gabions or cyclopean walls. The 20-mile stretch of the middle valley from Yonán to Chilete are honey-combed with numerous sites adjacent to highland centers such as Tantarica and Guzmango Viejo to the south, in the province of Contumazá.
    Little is known of the ruins in this area as no formal studies have been carried out. Left in ruins, and overgrown with shrubs, what is known is that Tantarica, Kuntur Wasi and others were built by the same pre-Inca culture, with Tantarica being more of a center of population than only a place of religious worship. At this site huge thick walls still stand forming rooms and passageways that lead to a plaza in which a central stone was placed, partially toppled by grave robbers.
Ruins of Tantarica at an elevation of 7,152-feet

With little attention or money spent on these ruins, or the many dozens of others sitting uncared for, there is little more that is known at this time, but there is no question that these sites have been dated to the latter part of the last millennium BC.
    High in the hills above the Rio Jequetepeque valley that leads from the northern Peruvian coast into the mountains of Cajamarca, five miles from San Pablo, is the temple named Kuntur Wasi (House of the Condor), a religious complex almost 3000 years old, it sits along the valley that was the main thoroughfare between the northern coast and mountains, making it an important site that drew visitors from all over the central and northern coast. The hilltop temple was built upon a series of platforms, with huge steps leading up to the main plaza.
    At about 40-feet high, this plaza is instantly recognizable to anyone who has seen any Chavín-era ruins. The sunken plaza is almost identical to the major influential Chavín culture that formed what many believe to be the first real Andean empire. The sunken plaza displays the same channel work that was designed to fill the plaza with water, evidently for ceremonial purposes. These channels go off to connect to a complex water system that directs water in various directions along parts of the platform’s main face.
A carved monolith (lithosculpture) that stood guard at the top of the stairs before being moved out into the plaza

Also seen are beautiful Chavín-influenced monoliths representing deities that are scattered around the complex with some are in very good condition. The ruins were first investigated in 1945 by Julio C. Tello who confirmed a Chavin link. But it wasn’t until 1989 that more extensive work was carried out, thanks to a project led by Yoshio Onuki of the University of Tokyo. His team carried out mass-excavations discovering various layers in the platforms from different periods of inhabitance. Many objects of gold and rare shells were found, as were more rock carvings and ceremonial objects. Many were very similar to Chavin finds.
    Tombs were found in the platforms, and with them many funerary objects including gold crowns, necklaces, and trophies. Most of these items are now displayed in the local museum outside of town and below the ruins (opposite the comiseria).
Map of the central and eastern settlements, showing the city of Cajamarca, and the villages of Chota and Pacopampa

Eighty-seven miles northwest of Cajamarca sets Chota, and 56 miles beyond that on the highest terrace of the San Pedro mountains of the Cajamarca Range is in the ancient settlement of Pocapampa. There a 3000-year-old temple was unearthed by lead archaeologist from the National University of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan, Yuji Seki and his associates. The outline of the temple formed part of a larger complex located 20 minutes from the modern town. But far more impressive than the temple, was what they found buried inside—the tomb of an elite woman who led her people that shines new light on thre role of leaders in the area three millennia ago. This “Lady of Pacopampa” had a deliberate deformation in the back part of her skull, as well as other mysterious elements such as a bluish substance and cinnabar—usually found only in the burials of the most important rulers of ancient Peru.
    The settlement around the Kuntur Wasi temple was originally a place to perform rituals when entering the temple itself, then later as a shared space of all three later temples. The Old, or original temple, dating from the early site's history, was an inward-facing structure consisting of various passage ways that led to rooms containing obelisks on which there were carvings of jaguars, crocodile-like caimans, and other forms with anthropomorphic features. In the center stood the main obelisk, which is presumed to be a supreme diety of the Chavín de Huantar, called Lanzón. The figure is anthropomorphic, with a feline head and human body. Mortars, pestles, conch-shell trumpets, and many other items have also been found there. Many of these artifacts have an anthropomorphic design or decoration and are thought to be associated with Chavín rituals. The so-called "New Temple,” or later temple, constructed between 500 and 200 BC, is also based on a gallery and plaza design and contained many relief sculptures.
One of the walls of the temple with the heads along its side

The most famous remains though are the stone heads. These were lined along the walls of the city said to represent the faces of priests performing rituals. The temple complex that stands today is comprised of two building phases: the U-shaped Old Temple, built around 900 BC, and the New Temple (built approximately 500 BC), which expanded the Old Temple and added a rectangular sunken court. The majority of the structures used roughly-shaped stones in many sizes to compose walls and floors. Finer smoothed stone was used for carved elements.  From its first construction, the interior of the temple was riddled with a multitude of tunnels, called galleries.  While some of the maze-like galleries are connected with each other, some were separate. The galleries all existed in darkness—there are no windows in them, although there are many smaller tunnels that allowed for air to pass throughout the structure. Archaeologists are still studying the meaning and use of these galleries and vents, including new explorations that are examining the acoustics, and how they may have projected sounds from inside the temple to pilgrims in the plazas outside.  It is possible that the whole building spoke with the voice of its god.
    Local style in art and decoration included scrolls, simple curves, straight lines, and images of wild animals. Chavín sculpture is usually of white granite and black limestone. Carved stone mortars and pestles, conch-shell trumpets, bone tubes and spatulas, and metal spatulas and spoons were found decorated in Chavín style as were various textiles including tapestries pottery, which was found in a wide variety of forms, including bottles and bowls, decorated with a wider range of distinctive elements.
    The god for whom the temple was constructed was represented in the Lanzón (Great Spear in Spanish in reference to the stone’s shape), a name currently given to the notched wedge-shaped stone over 15 feet tall, carved with the image of a supernatural being, and located deep within the Old Temple, intersecting several galleries.
    This temple had a huge sunken perfectly 
--> that was aligned with the nearby large mountain peak. The Chavín engineered the local river to enter this plaza to form a pool. They also used small stones between large blocks to create an extremely strong structural wall. The buildings have survived 3000 years of earthquakes and become increasingly strong with each quake as the small stones shift to better positions.    Tombs at the burial sites, give evidence of a small elite class with elaborate burial goods, such as precious metals, colorful textiles, and other valuables. The majority of burials were more simple, with bodies interred in shallow pits with cotton clothing and a simple tool kit.
    The Chavin civilization began to change around 300 BC, as large ceremonial sites were replaced by villages and agricultural land. Here at Chavin de Huantar, a small village replaced the Circular Plaza. The area was populated until modern times, and still is, with people and animals now moved off the area of the ruins.
    “We don’t know if she was a queen or just a tribal leader, or if she performed as some sort of advisor or high priestess religious figure,” Seki explained.
Chavin de Huantar, a site located in the Ancash Region, 160 miles north of Lima at an elevation of 10,430 feet), east of the Cordillera Blanca at the start of the Conchucos Valley

Though further south where the Chavín culture is found, the ruins of the Jequetepeque Valley where numerous Chavín-style sites. A full two thousand years before the rise of the Inca Empire, a culture ruled most of the central Andes and spread their influence yet further. The Chavín, from their capital Chavín de Huántar in modern day Ancash, and with their roots in the very first civilizations and city-states in the Americas, such as Caral, Sechín, and Ventarrón, created what was Peru’s very first empire, before either the Moche , Chachapoyas, or Wari. In doing so, they instilled an idea in Andean peoples that lasted until the arrival of the Spanish—that of living under one government in one society with one common culture is beneficial in this harshest of environments, and that better and central organization would bring better crop yields, as well as more free time for monument building, religion and science.
    At 10,335-feet above sea level between the Cordillera Negra and the Cordillera Blanca lived the Chavín in central Peru. The ancient city of Chavin de Huantar was initially built around 900 B.C., and located at the start of the Marañon River that eventually flows past the ruins of other great civilizations and into the Amazon. The city had a sunken stone perfectly circular plaza, is perfectly circular and 65-feet in diameter that served as a sacred area for performing rituals.

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