Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Chavín Civilization of Peru in the Last Millennium BC

The Chavín culture is an extinct, pre-Columbian civilization, named for Chavín de Huantar, the principal archaeological site at which its artifacts have been found. The culture developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru from 900 BC to 200 BC. It extended its influence to other civilizations along the coast.
Red Circle: Chavín culture area of control: Blue Circle: Area of influence

The Chavín people (whose name for themselves is unknown) were located in the Mosna Valley where the Mosna and Huachecsa rivers merge. This area is 10,330 feet above sea level and encompasses the commonality in the quechua, suni, and puna life zones (Richard L. Burger, " Chavín de Huantar and its Sphere of Influence," Handbook of South American Archeology, edited by H. Silverman and W. Isbell, Springer, New York, 2008, pp681–706; also Burger, “Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization, 1992).
    In the periodization of pre-Columbian Peru, the Chavín is the main culture of the Early Horizon period (900 BC-200B C) in highland Peru, characterized by the intensification of religion, the appearance of ceramics closely related to the ceremonial centers, the improvement of agricultural techniques and the development of metallurgy and textiles.
    This Early Horizon period also included the Chiripa, Paracas, Pechiche, and Sechura cultures, and the building of Chanquillo observatory. Following this period came the Moche, Nazca, Recuay, Lima, Tiwanaku, and Vicus cultures. The Chavín culture had its development nucleus in the Huari Province of Ancash, covering various ecological zones, in the view of the lagoon Parón in the natural region of Janca.
    The best-known archaeological site for the Chavín culture is Chavín de Huantar, located in the Andean highlands of the present-day Ancash Region (Blue Circle in above map). It is believed to have been built around 900 BC and was the religious and political center of the Chavín people. The Chavín culture also demonstrated advanced skills and knowledge in metallurgy, soldering, and temperature control.
    They used early techniques to develop refined gold work. The melting of metal had been discovered at this point and was used as a solder (S.K. Lothrop, "Gold Artifacts of Chavín Style," American Antiquity, vol.16, no.3, Society of American Archaeology, Washington DC, 1951, pp226–240). They also domesticated camelids, such as llamas, for use as pack animals, fiber and meat, including llama jerky (George R. Miller and Richard L. Burger, "Our Father the Cayman, Our Dinner the Llama: Animal Utilization at Chavín de Huántar, Peru,” American Antiquity, vol.60, no.3, Society of American Archaeology, Washington DC, 1995, pp421–458). This jerky was commonly traded by camelid herders and was the main economic resource for the Chavín people. The Chavín people also successfully cultivated several crops, including quinoa, potatoes, and maize (corn). They also developed an irrigation system to assist the growth of these crops (Richard L Burger, and Nikolaas J. Van Der Merwe, "Maize and the Origin of Highland Chavín Civilization: An Isotopic Perspective,” American Antiquity, vol.60, no.3, Society of American Archaeology, Washington DC, 1990, pp85-95).
Chavín de Huantar, only partially uncovered to-date

The archaeological site of Chavín in a high valley of the Peruvian Andes in the province of Huari (Wari) gave its name to the culture that developed in the last millennium BC in a high valley of the Peruvian Andes. This ceremonial and pilgrimage center for the Andean religious world and hosted people from different latitudes, distances and languages, becoming an important center of ideological, cultural and religious convergence and dissemination around a cult spread over a wide territory of the Andes, as far as the north, central and south coasts, the northern highlands and high jungle of Peru.
    Chavín is one of the earliest and best known pre-Columbian sites and represents the more important expression of the arts and decorative and construction techniques of its time with a striking appearance of terraces and squares, surrounded by structures of dressed stone, and the mainly zoomorphic ornamentation.
    The primary construction materials used were quartzite and sandstone, white granite and black limestone in the building of Chavín de Huantar. Alternate coursing of quartzite was used in the major stone-faced platforms, while white sandstone and white granite were used interchangeably in the architecture, and were almost always cut and polished. Granite and black-veined limestone were the raw materials used in almost all of the engraved lithic art at the site, with Granite also used extensively in the construction of the Circular Plaza.
    In addition the coated quarried stone buildings and artificial terraces around plazas, containing an internal gallery system with an intricate network of vents and drains are not found anywhere else in South America. Stone-faced platform mounds at the site were made using an orderly fill of rectangular quartzite blocks in leveled layers. Platforms were built directly on top of fallen wall stones from earlier constructions, as there were little to no attempt to remove debris.
    The Chavín culture had a wide sphere of influence throughout surrounding civilizations, especially because of their location at a trade crossing point between the deserts and the jungles. For example, Pacopampa (near Cajamarca), located north of Chavín de Huantar, has renovations on the main temple that are characteristic of Chavín culture. Caballo Muerto, a coastal site in the Moche Valley region, has an adobe structure created during renovation of the main temple, the adobe related to Chavín influence. Garagay, a site in the modern-day Lima region, has variations of the characteristic Chavín iconography, and at the site of Cerro Blanco, in the Nepena valley, excavations revealed Chavín ceramics.
The Nephites (left) were a peaceful people, giving no offense to anyone, and taking up arms only when attacked; whereas the Lamanites (right) were a warring people who lived in the wilderness and hunted for their food

Warfare does not seem to have been a significant element in Chavín culture. The archaeological evidence shows a lack of basic defensive structures in Chavín centres, and warriors are not depicted in art, in notable contrast to the earlier art at Cerro Sechín. Effective social control may have been exercised by religious observance, and the ability to exclude dissidents from managed water resources. The climate and terrain of the neighboring areas outside the managed land were a daunting option for farmers wishing to flee the culture. Evidence of warfare has been found only in contemporaneous sites that were not influenced by Chavín culture, almost as if those other civilizations were defending themselves via warfare from Chavín cultural influence.
    Chavín culture as a style, and probably as a period, was widespread, stretching from Piura on the far north coast to Paracas on the south coast; and from Chavín in the north highlands to Pukara in the south highlands.
    While some scholars argued that the development of Chavín social complexities coincided with the cultivation of maize and development of agricultural surpluses; however, analysis of carbon isotope in the human bones found at Chavín sites, researchers have proved that the diet consisted mainly of C3 foods such as quinoa and potatoes, while maize is a C4 food, and was not a part of the main diet. Quinoa and Potato were crops better adapted to the Chavín environment, being more resistant to the frost and irregular rain fall associated with high-altitude environments. Maize would not have been able to thrive in such conditions (Burger and Van Der Merwe, 1990, pp85-96).
    According to archaeologists, the Chavín culture represents the first widespread, recognizable artistic style in the Andes. Chavín art can be divided into two phases: 1) corresponding to the construction of the "Old Temple" at Chavín de Huantar (c. 900–500 BC); and 2) the second phase corresponding to the construction of Chavín de Huantar's "New Temple" (500–200 BC).
Kotosh temple of the hand, near Huánuco Peru, consisting of a series of buildings comprising six periods of continuous occupation

Prior to the Chavín Culture, the Kotosh Culture lived in the mountain drainages of the Andes between around 3000 to around 1800 BC, during the Andean preceramic, or Late Archaic period, of Andean history. It should be noted that the Kotosh Culture shows numerous links with the Chavín Culture that emerged at most of these sites subsequently. It might even be suggested that the Kotosh and Chavin were were one of the same people, just leaving behind a different residue of ceramics—the one thing that Archaeologists use to date cultures.
    The point of this is that these so-called cultures represent a consistent flow of occupation of the entire Andean coastal region. Archaeology and Anthropology operate on a system of categorizing cultures and development by stages, which are arbitrarily set, such as Early Horizon, Middle Horizon and Late Horizon; however, since ceramic and food remains are basically the only evidence, such things as cultural changes of the same people are discounted. As an example, at the time of the American industrial revolution, the introduction of mechanical devices replaced earlier ones of far less capability. Yet, this does not different cultures, only the advancement of one culture.
    The Chavín, a highly advanced culture along the coastal range of Andean Peru could well have been the people we know as Nephites—certainly their abilities overlap in most areas, including being very religious, accomplished at irrigation, and artistically advanced, as well as having advanced building techniques in construction of temples, palaces, and community housing. These people originated in the mountains or highlands as did the Nephites, and they spread out from there into the lowlands and coastal regions, as did the Nephites.

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