Chavín Civilization | Culture, Economy, Religion & Characteristics

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Chavín Civilization

Chavín Culture: Civilization of ancient Peru that developed between 1200 and 200 BC.

Date 1200 – 200 BC
Location Current Peruvian Territory
Religion Polytheists
Economy Agriculture and Livestock

Who were the Chavines?

The Chavines were a civilization of ancient Peru that developed between 1200 and 200 BC. It settled around the central Andes, near the Chavín de Huántar archaeological site, present-day Peru.

The Chavín civilization is considered a cultural horizon, due to its influences on cultures that developed later.

They were characterized by being polytheistic and centering their economy on the cultivation of corn and potatoes. In addition, they perfected the techniques for the development of ceramic sculptures.

Location of the Chavines

The Chavín culture comes from Northern Peru, especially the Andes, and developed in the city of Chavín Huántar, 2 kilometers from the Hucheksa and Mosna rivers, present-day Peru.

Chavín Civilization | Culture, Economy, Religion & Characteristics

Location on the map of the Chavín culture.

Characteristics of the Chavines

The most important and notable characteristics of the Chavín culture are the following:

  • They were polytheists, that is, they believed in various gods and had many rituals.
  • They were located in the northwest of present-day Peru, more precisely in the Andes area.
  • Its economy was based on agriculture and livestock. In addition, they implemented barter as a trading system.
  • Its civilization was pre-Inca, it had great power and influence over other cultures.
  • They were a theocratic state, that is to say, they were governed by the high religious commanders.
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Religion of the Chavín Culture

The Chavín culture was polytheistic and its religion was influenced by jungle life and supernatural beings.

In addition, economic development pushed the construction of ceremonial centers for religious cults. Contaban with a main head or priest and promoted the cult of the god of the staffs.

During the religious cult they used natural hallucinogenic substances, which allowed a transformation of the human into something supernatural.

Due to their Amazonian influence, they represented their gods with wild figures such as jaguars, pumas, snakes, condors, anacondas or hawks.

Social Organization of the Chavines

The Chavín culture was characterized by having a theocratic state, that is, the high religious commanders ruled, in this case the priests.

Social pyramid of the Chavín culture

Social pyramid of the Chavín culture.

The social structure of the Chavín culture is divided into 3 different social classes:

  1. Priests: Leaders who ruled in the name of the gods.
  2. Warrior Nobility: In charge of stopping invasions and revolts. They had certain privileges.
  3. People: Popular mass made up of peasants, farmers and artisans, who had to pay tribute to the gods and rulers.

Chavines Economy

As for their economy, they were based on agriculture and livestock and used trade through barter between different peoples.

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However, the real thrust towards the development of its economy were, mainly, its modern techniques in agriculture, which became more and more innovative and productive.

Among the main crops in which they specialized are peanuts, chili peppers, avocados, cucumbers, tomatoes and corn.

As for livestock, they were based on raising alpacas, llamas and vicuñas.

Cultural manifestations

The Chavín civilization was characterized by manifesting its culture in various branches of art, be it architecture, sculpture, ceramics and goldsmithing.

They worked metals such as copper, silver and gold with which they perfect ornaments for personal use. They also treated stones for the construction of homes, sculptures and vessels. Wood and bone were used for the construction of weapons and tools. Finally, they used precious stones were used for the construction of ornaments.

For their clothing they used wool and cotton, with which they also made tapestries. Special garments painted for the occasion were used for religious ceremonies of high importance.

They were great stone sculptors, they made monoliths, stelae and nail heads. They were generally tributes that made reference to their religion and gods.

escultura chavin

Nailed head in the Chavín de Huantar National Museum.

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