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Chavin de Huantar Archeological Site

Chavin de Huantar Archeological Site

Huaraz isn’t only surrounded by impressive natural wonders but also by ancient pre-columbian settlements that have predated the Incas. The entire region has different archeological sites ranging from different periods and cultures.

However, most of these structures are barely known by foreign and local tourists since they’ve been hidden in the most remote locations within the Ancash region. The Chavín de Huantar ruins were built by the Chavín culture, which developed between the 1500 and 300 B.C.

According to many historians, this pre-Inca civilization could have been the mother to many Andean cultures. The archeological site in Huaraz was their administrative and religious center, it is of great importance for the understanding of the evolution of the mountain societies in Peru.

Likewise, due to its cultural expression and imposing structure, merged in the vegetation and natural scenery of the area, the site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Therefore, if you’re looking to travel off the beaten track, you should definitely visit the Chavín de Huántar Archaeological site.

Chavin de Huantar History

As aforementioned, the famous archeological site dates back to the 1500 B.C. and it’s one of Peru’s most significant ancient structures. It was built as a cult center, where different people from across the country came to make offerings and petitions to the gods.

The Chavin de Huantar Archeological Site consists of two temples, but due to the instability of the land, part of its structure was damaged. However, there is not much information about the complex, but thanks to excavations and studies carried out on the site, now we can understand much more of this important center.

The ceremonial center housed three important masterpieces made entirely of quarried stones, such as the Lanzón monolith, the Raimondi stele and the Obelisco Tello, each and every one of them was a ‘menhir,’ which has transcendental spirituality in the Andean culture, and it also had socio-political control purposes.

Chavin de Huantar is composed of several structures, but not all of them are from the same period since they were included along the development of the Chavin culture. The first structure is called ‘Templo Viejo,’ a self-explanatory Spanish denomination that means Old Temple in English.

After a few centuries, the Templo Viejo was abandoned and replaced by the Templo Nuevo, composed of other structures called ‘El Castillo’ and ‘Plaza Cuadrada.’ The site covers an extension of 12,000m2, though most of its structure was damaged by floods and seismic activity.

The structure itself represents the great artistic expression of the Chavin culture, since they decorated their walls with carvings of their gods and rituals. Also, the site is also adorned with ‘Cabezas Clavas,’ which were a series of sculpted monoliths that portrayed the head of mythical beings.

Chavín is certainly one of the earliest and best known pre-Columbian sites and represents the important expression of the arts and decorative and construction techniques of its era. It is surely an Andean gem worth visiting.

Who were the Chavín?

As we mentioned before, the Chavin culture developed between the 1200 and 500 B.C. According to historians and archeologists, this could be the mother of the Andean culture due to its cultural, religious and socio-political influences.

However, not much is known about this ancient civilization but thanks to the studies and discoveries found in what used to be the ‘Chavin territory,’ significant information has come up to the surface.

When the studies first started, archeologists used to believe that this could be the first civilization to form in Peru. However, this theory was discarded after the discovery of the Caral Citadel. Nonetheless, the Chavin society is certainly one of the oldest within the Peruvian lands.

What to See?

The site has an extraordinary structure and architectural style, where most of its interior is distributed like a maze and a multitude of tunnels, called galleries. Also, the buildings didn’t have any windows, which buried the entire place into the dark.

However, the Chavín people managed to build smaller tunnels that allow air to pass through the structure, as well as beams that illuminated certain parts of the temples. Here we have listed the main attractions within the site:

- Old Temple: It was the first temple constructed on the site, it is composed of three truncated pyramids that seen from above form a ‘U’ shape. The Old Temple was home to one of the mighty gods of the Chavin culture, which was represented by the Lanzón monolith.

The temple has a maze-like structure in its interior, where each tunnel connects to several reservoirs, used to preserve the offerings provided by the population.

- New Temple: It is the largest pyramid in the archeological complex and one of the most preserved. It is believed that it was here where the Raimondi Stele was displayed. Its interior is composed of several galleries, though their purpose is still unknown.

Both temples are surrounded by a rectangular and a circular plaza that potentially had a ritual purpose. As aforementioned, the Chavin temples were adorned with stone carvings that depicted gods and ritual ceremonies.

According to historians, the temples were totally abandoned around the year 200 B.C. which is about the time when the Chavin culture dissolved.

How to Get to Chavin de Huantar?

The ceremonial center of the Chavín culture is located in the northern highlands of the region of Ancash, in a lowland valley two hours from Huaraz.

If you’re planning to do this on your own, keep in mind that you will need to hire a certified taxi for a round trip ride since transport is nearly limited in this area.

However, we advise you to take a tour where you’ll get to know everything about the famous archeological site. Luckily for you, we have a Chavin de Huantar Tour that you certainly can’t miss.

General Information

- Address: Chavín de Huantar 02395.
- Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday from 08:00h to 17:00h.
- Entrance: General entrance - S/.11.00

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