Buried Civilizations of the Americas
5. "Altering the Earth" at Chavín de Huantar
- Archaeology & the Environment
- Environmental Possibilism- the environment constrains but does not determine human
- Carrying capacity - how many people one can support in an area, given crops and
- Incredibly important technology;
- necessary to support large populations and population densities
- associated with sedentism, year-round occupation of a dwelling
- New World: primarily corn, beans, and squash
- dry farming, runoff, irrigated agriculture
- Types of Environments
- semi-arid or arid environments: dry farming is impossible, need water control
- jungle, slash and burn agriculture
- temperate woodland: dry farming
- Pastoralism herding
- No herd animals in North or Mesoamerica
- In South America, camelids: guanaco, vicuna, alpaca, llama
- Also domestic (not herded) turkey and dog; in South America, guinea pigs
- Note: no wheeled vehicles in prehispanic New World
- Andean Vertical Ecology
- Coastal Desert
- extremely dry, cut by short rivers, due to the due to Peru Current, a
north-flowing cold current; El Niño is a south-flowing warm current that every
several years or so overpowers the Peru current
- soils fertile and well drained, good for agriculture w/ water
- characterized by lomas vegetation
- above the desert is the Yunga (warm valley) zone 1600-7500'
- Highlands, Andes Mountains
- Quechua zone - highland valleys, 9200'-11,500', lower terraced and irrigated
- Puna - high plateau grasslands above 13,000'
- Suni - narrow zone between quechua and Puna 11,500-13,000'
- Sierra - mountains, Huascarán 22,205'
- Jungle - the upper Amazon basin
- Selva Alta high altitude jungle (montaña)
- Selva lower Jungle
- Natural Disasters
- earthquake, tidal waves, avalanches
- volcanic eruptions
- El Niño > coastal floods, droughts in S. Andes
- Domestic Animals: llama & alpaca by 3500BC; guinea pig
- Domestic Plants full range by 3000BC: potatoes, quinoa, beans, squash, corn
- Middle Preceramic Period - 6000-3000BC
- Preceramic means before ceramics
- Sedentary villages ca. 5700-3000BC
- Mainly maritime (from the sea) subsistence
- Elaborate burials and mummification
- Late Preceramic 3000-1800BC
- Earliest monumental architecture in New World
- Coastal tradition of U-shaped temples & plazas
- El Paraíso (central coast site, Chillón Valley)
- U-shaped Temple, wings 1300' long, 340,000m³, 100,000 tons of stone,
estimated 2,000,000 person days labor, ca 128acres
- Stone-walled rooms filled with shicra, net bags filled with stones from a nearby
- Argued a population in the 1000s
- Settlement Pattern: centers near the coast and small coastal villages
- Maritime Hypothesis - Michael Moseley - argument for a maritime rather than
agricultural basis for early complex society.
- Compare: Karl Wittfogel's hydraulic theory of the origin of the state -
bureaucracies develop to build and manage large scale irrigation.
- While there was agriculture, and reliance on cotton, food is nearly all maritime.
- How do you get all this stone moved around?
- no burial evidence for differentiation
- Initial Period 1800-800BC
- Agriculture intensifies
- Development of pottery late, 1000 years after other places in South America
- Central Coast
- Building of U-shaped temples expands
- La Florida, 6.7M person days, 365x155x23m
- Settlement pattern: coastal villages, centers inland on valley floors; and inland
- North Central Coast
- Many more temple complexes, which move inland, suggesting agriculture
- Sechin Alto in the Casma Valley, the largest new world monument in 2nd
millennium BC, 250x300mx44m.
- Sechin Alto is argued to be the center of Initial Period coastal state but: no elite
burials, little standardization in style, no fortifications and lots of sacred themes in
- At Cerro Sechin, military scene carved in stone; show trophy heads, victorious in
- Terrace natural hills to make huge pyramids with platforms characteristic of the
- Early Horizon; 800BC-200BC
- Chavín de Huantar 1000-200BC Major Site
- Chavín References
- 1994 Richardson, James B, III. People of the Andes. St. Remy Press, Montreal.
- 1992 Burger, Richard L. Chavín and the Origins of Andean Civilization.
Thames and Hudson, London.
- Visited by Cieza de León in 1548
- Julio Tello: San Marcos & Harvard educated highland Indian; 1919 excavated
Chavín; argued it was oldest Andean civilization.
- Richard Burger. Recent work at Chavín.
- John Rick. Mapping, see web site.
- 10,300', 33" rainfall, good access to highlands, coast, & jungle
- 2 temples, U-shaped with sunken courts
- Old Temple
- sunken plaza 70' in diameter for worshipers
- around plaza, tenoned heads show transformation of priest into jaguar
- within temple are stone tunnels or galleries, air and water channels
- in main chamber is the lanzón, 15' granite sculpture of a feline, with body
parts kenned (turned into other animal parts)
- The lanzón is believed to represent the central god in the central god and
was perhaps associated with an oracle
- Tello Obelisk has cayman (alligator relative) iconography depicting a
mating of the underworld and the world above.
- New Temple
- Black and White Portal - includes a 33' cared stone lintel with hawks and eagles
- Raimundi Stone, 6.5' tall, bas-relief sculpture, of Chavín staff deity
- has a much larger plaza, but also has galleries, air ducts and drainage system
- early, 500 people, mixed hunting and agro-pastoralism, probably a local center
- middle, 1000 people, irrigation systems built in valley, more herding and
- late, 2000-3000 people, small urban center, increase in long distance trade &
- Luis Lumbreras (leading Peruvian archaeologist) argues an earthquake led to the
end of Chavin
- Population decline, no more building of U-shaped temples, most were abandoned
- Why was there a decline and abandonment? El Nino floods? tidal wave?
- Late in the Early Horizon on the north coast there was population growth and
construction of fortifications suggesting unsettled times
- Implications: What does it all mean?
- Was Chavín a complex society politically?
- Craft Specialists
- Chavín period, fluorescence of gold working.
- Textiles improve and change
- Stone sculpture taken to new levels
- Ceramics quite elaborate
- at least some roads date to this period
- Chavín iconography is widespread. There is Chavín, but not exclusively Chavín,
iconography at a number of other highland centers
- Origin of the iconography is the coast, but it shows a new pantheon of gods and
becomes a horizon style (style marking a period found over a wide area) at the
end of the Early Horizon
- Cemetery near Paracas on the south coast: a 14'x9' textile used as a mummy
wrap w/ Chavín iconography, probably temple hanging.
- Was there an economic hierarchy, social stratification, wealth of priests and leaders?
- no exotic tombs at Chavín, some found at other highland centers with Chavín
iconography including gold crowns, pectorals, & ear spools
- Best argument is for cult focused on an oracle, like Pachacamac, with satellite oracles.
- Burger calls Chavín the first Andean "Civilization"
- Burger characterizes "civilization" by a high level of cultural achievements in arts
and sciences, made visible through material objects
- How would you define civilization?