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Chavin de Huantar

Chavin de Huantar is an archaeological site located 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Lima, Peru. The site lies at an elevation of 3177 meters (10,423 feet), beyond the Andean mountain range known as the Cordillera Blanca in Ancash Region. The city's location at the headwaters of Rio Marañon, between the coast and the jungle, made it an ideal location for the dissemination and collection of both ideas and material goods.

Chavin de Huantar was initially built by the Chavin, a pre-Moche culture, around 900 B.C. The site consists of two main structures, the Old Temple and New Temple. The Old Temple was an inward-facing U-shaped structure with a central court. The court contained obelisks and stone monuments with low relief carvings depicting jaguars, caymans, hawks, and various anthropomorphic forms. The interior of the temple contained a maze of passageways, chambers and water conduits.

The New Temple, constructed between 500 and 200 B.C., also contained many relief sculptures and was a more block-like form. A massive stair led up to an elevated landing with a sunken rectangular court. Hidden passageways and platforms allowed priests to miraculously appear above their audiences.

The population in the surrounding areas grew from about 500 in its initial phase to nearly 3,000 around 400-200 B.C. Several droughts occurred at the time of the occupation of Chavin de Huantar, leading to the increased travel of pilgrims and traders. These natural events, along with the strategic location of the temple site, led to the wide dissemination of the Chavin artistic style and religious beliefs throughout the area that is now known as Peru.

Some of the Chavin reliefs from this archaeological site are on display in the Museo de la Nacion in Lima. Chavin de Huantar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

An alternative dating scheme for Chavin has been put forward recently by a team of researchers from Stanford University which finds that the chronology of construction at Chavin argues for dates a number of centuries earlier, and in particular, that monumental construction at Chavin ceased well prior to 500 B.C.

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