Iconography at Chavin de Huantar

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Show how the iconography at Chavin de Huantar can be understood and what it can tell us about the Early Horizon ceremonialism in the Andean Highlands.

The Chavin iconography is expressed in a number of media and over a large area, having its focal point in central highland Peru and spreading to south to the river valleys, flood plains and the beaches of the Pacific Ocean coast. The famous examples include the stone sculptures from ancient ceremonial centre in highlands, which comprised the Old Temple and, later, the New Temple with adjacent Plaza. There were also found many portable objects bearing Chavin iconography, like ceramics, vessels, metalwork and textiles, many of which were recovered in coastal areas. The Chavin iconography usually presents scenes with human- animal beings that seem to perform ritual activities and tend to carry objects of significance, which all would have been vibrantly colored in red , white and yellow plaster (Rodriguez Kembel and Rick 2004, 62). These scenes are very exceptional as they are lacking in explicit political content, which puts Chavin art in sharp contrast with the socio-political content of the Peruvian art style of the Early Intermediate Period (Burger 1988, 123). What is more, this peculiar religious art is based ultimately on analogy and metaphor , which makes the end product almost incomprehensible for the viewer, yet, simultaneously, evoking the sensation of being in the presence of something extraordinary (Burger 1988, 130). This is achieved by the means of special canons, such as the use of “kennings” -metaphorical substitutes for body parts e.g. hair in form of snakes, repetition of design elements to form complex motifs, symmetry and anatropic organization that allows a picture to be inverted yet still present upright images (Wilson 1999, 376). Thus, not without a reason, the Chavin artistry was considered by Alfred Kroeber to be the pinnacle of prehistoric South American art (Kroeber, cited by Burger



Bibliography: Burger , R.L. 1995: Chavin and the origins of Andean Civilization. Themes and Hudson: New York Burger, R Lothrop, S.K. 1951: Gold Artefacts of Chavin Style. American Antiquity 16, 226-240 Peregrine, P Richardson, J.B. 1994: People of the Andes . Smithsonian Institution Press : Washington D.C. Urton, G. 1996: The Body of Meaning in Chavin Art. Anthropology and Aesthetics 29/30, 237-255 Von Hagen, Adriana and Moriss, C Wilson, J.W. 1999: Indigenous South Americas of the Past and Present. Westview Press: Boulder , Colorado

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