Monday, April 7, 2014

Things Peruvian

Garth Norman and I just returned from a 10 day expedition to Peru where we visited the following pre-Inca sites listed in approximate chronological order by date of first occupation:
  • Caral near Supe, 3,000 B.C.
  • Sechin near Casma, 2.800 B.C.
  • Chavin de Huantar in the city of the same name, 2,400 B.C.
  • Paracas Candelabra and shell middens near Paracas, 800 B.C.
  • Palpa Lines near Palpa 600 B.C.
  • Cahuachi near Nazca, 100 B.C.
  • Pachacamac near Lurin in greater Lima A.D. 200
  • Nazca Lines near Nazca A.D. 400
  • Mateo Salado in Lima A.D. 1,100
In addition, we visited the following museums:
  • Museo Nacional de Arqueologia, Pueblo Libre
  • Museo Larco, Pueblo Libre
  • Museo de Oro, Santiago de Surco
  • Museo de la Nacion, San Borja
  • Museo de Sitio, Pachacamac
  • Museo Antonini, Nazca
  • Museo Maria Reiche, Palpa
  • Museo Nacional de Chavin, Chavin de Huantar
  • Museo Regional Max Uhle, Sechin
We had the pleasure of a private lecture from Viktoria Nikitzki, student of Maria Reiche, at the Centro de Estudios Maria Reiche in Nazca. We examined several examples of Nazca puquios, deep rock-lined canals and tunnels designed to channel water flowing down from the Andes across that arid desert. We were able to investigate the Nazca and Palpa lines from three perspectives: a) from the air in a light aircraft, b) from atop a 610 meter hill known locally as the "mirador natural," and c) from the ground walking along modern dirt roads that intersect the lines. Our guide at Chavin has worked with John Rick of Stanford, director of the most recent excavations at the site. Our guide at Caral is part of the Peruvian Ministerio de Cultura team currently excavating and restoring the site.
Garth is well-informed in Mesoamerican archaeology and arguably the world's expert on the site of Izapa near Tapachula, Chiapas. In his latest book entitled Izapa Sacred Space: Sculpture Calendar Codex, Norman proposes a link between Izapa which sits at 15 degrees north latitude and Nazca which sits at 15 degrees south latitude. Our purpose on this trip was to test Garth's hypothesis and gather data to support or refute the Chavin - Olmec connection that others have suggested (Michael D. Coe, "An Olmec Design on an Early Peruvian Vessel," American Antiquity 27 [1962]: 579-80.) It was Garth's first visit to Peru. I served my mission there in 1972 - 74 and have returned over a dozen times since. This was the first time, though, I have gone to Peru strictly to visit archaeological sites and museum collections. We were like a couple of boy scouts on a camp out with adventure and discovery around every corner.

Some of the things that delighted us:
  • The famous Inca quipu (mnemonic device of knotted, colored cords) originated very early in the Andes. Crude examples have been found at Caral which is the earliest civilization known in the Americas.
  • Ditto pan pipes and flutes which have been found at Caral.
  • The current Peruvian logo, with a spiral forming the letter "P," derives from a bas relief spiral sculpted into one of the altars at Caral.
  • Caral was pre-ceramic and pre-metal. Material culture consisted of worked stone, wood and bone with cotton and other natural fibers woven into cords and crude cloth. No evidence of warfare has been found at Caral.
  • Sechin, on the other hand, had pottery, metal, more sophisticated textiles and a highly-developed culture of armed military conquest.
  • Chavin was a major religious pilgrimage site with a large priestly class. 
  • The well-known chakana or Andean (Inca) Cross is very early. A fine example is on the Lanzon, principal deity figure at Chavin. In addition to cardinal and inter-cardinal (ordinal) directionality, the chakana depicts the Andean belief in life above the earth, on the surface of the earth, and beneath the earth.
  • Deity attributes from apex predators puma, anaconda, eagle (condor) and crocodile were depicted iconographically from Chavin through Inca times. These same attributes are important in Olmec and Izapan iconography. 
  • The Viracocha deity known generally among Andean specialists as "dios de los baculos" or "god with staffs" was venerated from Chavin through Inca times.
  • Sites align to the cardinal directions and to impressive points on the horizon. The temple at Chavin, for example, orients to the eastern sunrise while Sechin orients due north.
  • Temples had windows or doors oriented such that the sun's rays only penetrated sacred precincts on certain days of the year. The Lanzon at Chavin, for instance, had a small window directly overhead that allowed sunlight to illuminate the granite shaft two times per solar year. Specialized temple architecture of this nature was widespread in antiquity.  
  • Pyramids were built to model the contours of the surrounding mountains. The slopes of La Galeria at Caral, for example, follow the lines of the hill immediately behind it. This phenomenon is well-known at Teotihuacan.
  • Garth has assiduously collected standard measure data for decades throughout the Middle East and the Americas. He added several dozen data points to his archive on this trip.
  • The "death eye" prominent at Izapa and known throughout Mesoamerica (e.g. Dresden & Madrid Codices) is found on many carved human figures at Sechin. 
  • There are 102 known huacas (archaeological ruins) in greater Lima including 5 on the Isla San Lorenzo off the coast of Callao. Most of them cluster along the 3 rivers that flow into the metropolitan area, the Chillon on the north, the Rimac in the center and the Lurin on the south. Settlement in the area was continuous from ca. 2,000 B.C. to European contact.
  • Chavin controlled a vast territory about 600 kilometers long from Cajamarca on the north to the Lurin Valley (Lima) on the south. Its domain was about 350 kilometers wide from the Pacific coast on the west to the Ucayali basin east of Huanuco on the east. Chavin's influence extended further still, across 1,400 kilometers from Tumbes on the north to Nazca on the south.
  • Rivers were central to settlement patterns in the Andes just as they were in Mesoamerica and the Old World. The confluence of two rivers was a propitious place. Caral is beside the Supe. Sechin is between the Sechin and the Casma, near their confluence. Chavin is at the confluence of the Huachecsa with the Mosna.
  • Iconographic motifis well-known in Mesoamerica are abundant in early Peruvian sites. These include bands terminating in circles representing blood flow, U and V shaped sky panels, dual-headed serpents, step frets, water scrolls and peanuts representing fecundity.
  • Ancient Andean symbolism is replete with representations of duality:
    • male female
    • day night
    • earth sky
    • life death
    • divinity humanity     
I outlined a possible Viracocha - Jesus Christ relationship in a 1978 article entitled "Four Peruvian Versions of the White God Legend." Based on ethnohistorical accounts recorded in the Spanish and Indian Chronicles, I believe the passage in 3 Nephi 16:1-3 refers to a visit by the resurrected Christ to the Andean peoples.
Chakana Replica with Gold on Copper from Museo Larco
El Lanzon, Chavin, with Overhead Window

3 of the 6 Pyramids at Caral, Oldest Civilization in the Americas