The gods of ancient Peru (2) – Variations over thousands of years

Please note: This book is currently available only in German and Spanish.

After the publication of Iconographic Interpretations, new information and new insights were discovered that made necessary a follow-on volume to document more accurately the divine images contained in the iconography of ancient Peru.

The primary finding is related to the transformation of Chavín’s feline deity image into a hybrid. In previous publications it had been postulated that the transformation followed a natural event, which was always assumed to have been the climatic anomaly “El Niño”. However, the dissertation of Silvia Rodriguez Kembel Architectural Sequence and Chronology at Chavín de Huantar/Peru, which focuses on the construction history of the temple of Chavín, revealed that Chavín de Huantar was affected by a destructive earthquake. Geological science, in this case the United States Geological Survey” (USGS, Earthquake Hazards Program), was able to date the Chavin earthquake around the year 550 BC.

At that time, the new temple was being constructed as an addition to the old temple and, was affected by the earthquake’s destructive force. The most important reaction of the religious leaders, however, seems to have been their realization that the god, and thus the image of the god, had failed to protect the community. At that time, the image of the god was still in the old temple of Chavín as the “Lanzón”. The immediate reaction was to create a more powerful hybrid divine image thus reinforcing the original. This image, added as the construction work continued, is found in the form of two similar reliefs on the two columns of the new temple portal.

Paracas adopted Chavín’s image of enhanced divine power, but artistically modified it. Many temple buildings surrounding Chavín also adopted this modified hybrid image. It is important to note that, as subsequent outlying Peruvian cultures adopted Chavín’s divine image, they replicated it with innumerable artistic variations. Without this background, it may be difficult for today’s viewer of these stylistically varied images to discern their continuity and interpret their unchanging message.

Beyond the consideration of textiles and other objects, this supplementary book deals, with additional temple buildings, which, because of their iconographic features, are both interesting and instructive.

Furthermore, new additions to the series of graphic representations showing the development of particular aspects of the iconography have been included to illustrate the historical development of these images of the gods. These pages, as single or double pages, have been inserted into the text. These pages show the four identical sequences of the deity image at Chavín and Paracas, the substitutions at Paracas and Tiahuanaco, as well as the temporary substitution on the coastal area of the harpy for the sea bird, the numerous attempts to represent the hybrid deity by means of dual harpy images, the aspects of the emblematic deity image at Moche, and the minimalization of the deity image through the eye of the feline as a substitute for the image of the supreme deity.

In addition to color illustrations, the book contains a large selection of graphic black and white tracings. On page 17 of this book there is a random selection of 108 such images, each in postage stamp size, as a non-chronological compilation. It presents only about 20% of such representations, which were made by the author during his investigations. These samples illustrate the amazing variety of deity images. Though outwardly different, they were all created to convey the same religious content.

Further reference is made to the German/Spanish version of the book. Price: 25.- EUR.