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Chavin de Huantar
Ancash Peru

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: Average annual temperatures run around 18°C (maximum 18° C and minimum 9° C). The area is best visited from April to October, ideally from June to August.

Access: The site lies 110 km southeast of Huaraz (around three-and-a-half hours).

The unique remains of the intricate past of an entire nation, the archaeological site of Chavin de Huantar is a symbol of Peru's ancient northern cultures. The ruins, discovered in 1919 by Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, are a crucial part of Peru's history.

At 3,185 meters above sea level and just three hours from the city of Huaraz, the magical and religious center of Chavin was built in around 327 BC. Its walls are made of stone, while its structures are shaped like pyramids, which has sparked a great deal of controversy over what was the purpose of the complex, whether a temple or a fortress.

The local inhabitants call the site "el castillo" (the castle). The construction features a labyrinthine network of passageways and tunnels lit by strategically-placed skylights. Inside the temple still stands the Lanzón, the 5-meter-high monolith carved into ferocious deities and figures of monstrous beasts. There are also a set of gargoyle heads which once decorated the outer walls of the complex.

Chavin was one of the earliest civilizations in the Americas, contemporary to the Olmecas in Mexico. The culture achieved a remarkable level of skills in agriculture, architecture and pottery, in addition to their administrative capacity. This enabled them to dominate much of the north and central parts of Peru. This is possibly what made Chavin de Huantar so important: its strategic location as a link between the coast, highlands and jungle.

Animals and plants typical of the eastern lowlands have long been noted in Chavin art, and it has been argued that this implies an eastern origin for the beliefs underlying the culture. What can be said with clarity is that the location of Chavin de Huantar would not have been natural home to the caiman (alligator), monkey, manioc plant, or many other representations in the art.

Further, it has been suggested that Chavin de Huantar lies along a natural access route between the coast and eastern tropics. While the Mosna River, on which Chavin lies, will eventually lead to the Amazon, it is at best a tortuous route. In fact, a much more direct and easily transited route is found slightly south of the Chavin area. It can just as easily be thought of as being in a location of relatively difficult access.

The site of Chavin itself is located at 3150 m of altitude in the narrow canyon of the Mosna River, just at the point where it widens slightly and the major Wacheqsa stream joins it. The site occupies a relatively flat river terrace, which has been substantially modified to accommodate the central part of the site, which lies within an area about 500x500 m.

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