The pre-Columbian archaeological site of Chavín de Huantar is a glimpse into the world of Peru’s oldest complex societies. Its large temple-like structures, labyrinthine underground passages, and distinctly Chavín stone monuments and sculptures are still intact to this day despite having been constructed in 1500 B.C.
Up until around 200 B.C., the site served as a cult center and pilgrimage site of sorts, attracting worshippers from across the Andean territories. The temple’s unusually elaborate structures and motifs have led scholars to believe the site was more than just another ancient ceremonial center but instead the headquarters of an oracle or family of oracles (priests and priestesses said to be the messengers of the gods).
At the heart of the temple exists a 15-foot tall granite statue carved to look like a standing figure, half-human, half-animal with fangs and snakes protruding from its head. It is believed that this is the deity for whom the temple was built, the Lanzón de Chavín. Other notable features include the underground chambers carved with low relief anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures.
As a religious hub for worshippers throughout the Andes, Chavín de Huantar became a major convergence zone for pre-Columbian Andean cultures, while Chavín culture, art, and beliefs quickly spread outward to other parts of Peru. Chavín earthenware and ornaments from this period have been unearthed far and wide across the Andes.
The engineering, acoustics, and hydraulics of Chavín de Huantar demonstrate how advanced the Chavín culture was while also shedding light on how the oracles may have manipulated worshippers into believing they and the site possessed god-like powers. Amplified sound, disorienting light, and secret passageways created quite the shock and awe factor for temple-goers.
Today’s visitors to Chavín de Huantar must take the scenic mountain roads to its 3,177-meter-high (10,423 foot) perch three hours from Huaraz, the capital city of the Ancash region. The site sits in a high mountain pass with the dry desert coast to its west and the high Amazon jungle to its east.
See this awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage site for yourself on your Peru luxury tour. Contact a Kuoda Travel Designer today for a free custom Peru trip quote.