Museum Collections - Ancient Peru - Chavín

Stone Idol - Chavín

Chavín de Huantar is located in the north-central highlands of Peru, midway between the coast and the tropical lowlands. Founded by 800 B.C., this ceremonial centre was thought of as the home of an oracular deity. The cult of Chavín was the first art style to spread over much of the Andes. Because of their portability, textiles were used to transmit the Chavín religious ideas in a graphic way throughout much of the Andes.

The site of Chavín consists of the Old Temple, a U-shaped platform which encloses a round sunken courtyard. Inside the temple is a stone idol, carved in bas-relief (sculptural carving where image is raised slightly from background) known as the Lanzón (see left). Measuring 4.5m high and embedded in the floor, this sculpture features all the elements of the distinctive Chavín style. It has feline fangs, round eyes with pendant irises, an upturned snarling mouth, and claws and talons. Other elements of Chavín imagery include jaguars, snakes and other animal-human composites, inspired by the tropical forests to the east.

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Thumbnail Link to Chavín Artifact 1 catalogue page