Numerous large architectural complexes exist in the coastal valleys and highlands of Peru. They are used periodically for civic and ritual activities by regional populations living in hamlets and villages of up to several hundred inhabitants. In the first part of the millennium, Chavín de Huantar in the north-central highlands is an influential site. A related set of visual images spreads as far north as Puerto Eten near the modern town of Chiclayo, and as far south as the Nazca Valley drainage. Perhaps based on similar ideologies, its images and symbols appear on local ceramics, textiles, gold, and stone work. For the first time, it is believed, previously unrelated cultures on the northern Peruvian coast and in the highlands have a shared religion. In modern times, these developments have been named Chavín, after the archaeological site of Chavín de Huantar in the central highlands. Peoples in the southern Andes—the Altiplano of Bolivia, northern Chile, and northwestern Argentina—remain largely outside the range of the unifying influence and develop their own ideology and ritual complex.
In the final centuries of the period, more stratified and warlike cultures emerge, particularly on the north and south coasts of Peru. They introduce new technologies and imagery in art and architecture.
A ceremonial complex consisting of several platforms, a sunken courtyard, and a series of rooms is constructed at Kuntur Wasi (also known as La Copa for the hill on which it is built), located near the headwaters of the Jequetepeque River in northern Peru. The image of a sacred anthropomorphic effigy in clay, about thirty inches high, is deposited in the floor of one of the rooms. Painted with cinnabar red, malachite green, and black, yellow, and pink, its face has big square eyes and a wide mouth with prominent canine teeth.
A fifteen-feet-tall monolith representing a deity image with clawed hands and feet, and a huge, fanged, grinning mouth, is erected in one of the many interior spaces of the Old Temple at Chavín de Huantar. It is now known as the Lanzón.
At Manchay Bajo in Peru’s Lurín Valley, a great wall, 820 yards long, protects the U-shaped temple complex from the flooding and mudslides of the central coast.
Chavín de Huantar attracts large numbers of pilgrims and vast amounts of tribute. The resident population includes specialist artisans who produce high-quality stone-relief carvings, fine ceramics, textiles, and gold objects with Chavín imagery.
The Wankarani people live in the Bolivian Altiplano north of Lake Poopó in villages of round adobe houses painted yellow on the interior and red on the outside. Stone tenon heads of llamas and alpacas are carved, perhaps initially clustered in the ground near ceremonial structures.
Ceramic vessels in the northern Peruvian valleys where subtle stylistic variations exist, are fired in subsurface kilns in well-controlled environments. Specialized potters produce single-spout and stirrup-spout bottles, apparently used for liquids such as maize beer. Most are dark brown or gray and monochrome; many are decorated with modeled felines, raptorial birds, and snakes. Surface texturing is also used.
Many centers that have belonged to the monumental U-shaped temple tradition on Peru’s north and central coasts for over a thousand years are abandoned, perhaps as a result of the devastating floods of El Niño events.
An important individual is laid to rest at Kuntur Wasi. His lavish shaft tomb contains a seven-inch-high crown of hammered sheet gold with fourteen human-head dangles in its diamond-shaped openings. Ceramics from the site show strong affinities with contemporary north coast Cupisnique wares.
In the southern Andes, on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca, construction begins on the ceremonial complex at Chiripá. The complex is formed of a series of one-room rectangular buildings around a central patio with a sunken court. The walls of some are painted and have niches on the inside.
Chavín power begins to wane. Construction of monumental architecture in the north ceases; some centers are abandoned.
The Yaya-Mama (meaning “Father-Mother” in the Quechua language) religious tradition is believed to have flourished in the southern Altiplano. Male-female imagery of paired deities is carved on stone stelae at ceremonial sites in the Lake Titicaca region.
The site of Karwa, five miles from the Paracas Peninsula on Peru’s south coast, is perhaps the regional Chavín center. Ceramics, pyro-engraved gourds, and textiles are decorated with Chavín-style motifs.
The people living on the barren, windswept Paracas Peninsula bury their dead in elaborate funerary bundles. The bodies are wrapped in layer upon layer of fine plain cloth and colorful textiles embroidered with images of animals and elaborately attired supernaturals.
The most characteristic ceramic vessel shape on Peru’s south coast is the double-spout-and-bridge bottle. Chamber designs are outlined by incision and covered after firing with brilliantly colored resin-based pigments.
Pukará is the largest settlement in the Altiplano north of Lake Titicaca, covering approximately 900 acres. U-shaped courts flanked by fine masonry structures are part of the complex. Three-dimensional stone sculptures depict blocky humans with accentuated ribs and prominent square eyes. Ceramics are slip painted in red, black, white, and yellow, with incisions outlining motifs of frontal humans, spotted cats, llamas, and geometric patterns.
On the north coast of Peru, orange-red ware vessels, fired in an oxidizing atmosphere and often decorated with designs in white slip, are made by the Salinar people of the Virú Valley. Red-ware vessels replace the dark monochromes made in the area in previous centuries. In form, Salinar ceramics show continuities with Cupisnique wares.
The site of Tiwanaku on the south side of Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca is laid out in a grid pattern with civic-ceremonial structures and elite residences forming the center. They are surrounded by a moat. Stone sculptures in Yaya-Mama style, with low-relief carvings of human and animal figures and undulating snakes, are erected.
In the south, the Nazca peoples living in the Ica Valley and in the Río Grande de Nazca drainage are impressive weavers, producing cloth using many techniques of the earlier Paracas people. Technically and aesthetically complex works are made.
“Central and Southern Andes, 1000 B.C.–1 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=04®ion=sac (October 2004)