October 14, 2007 Peter Roe, "It Takes Two to Launch a Dart: Complementary-Opposition in Ancient Chavín Art and Architecture"
 
Based on recent archaeo-astronomical fieldwork at the site, Dr. Roe presented a cogent argument for the astronomical symbolism and alignments of Chavín de Huántar, the type site for the Chavín Civilization, located in the northern Andes of Peru, near the headwaters of the Amazon.   Chavín de Huántar was an ancient oracle, the center of a pilgrimage system and the focus of an Andean regional cult of 1,000 B.C. - 200 A.D. In the iconography of the site a triple-tiered world view is presented, but it is illustrated with Amazonian predator gods. These gods, who also resided in the heavens, were the Harpy Eagle as master of the Sky level, the Jaguar as lord of the Earth level and the Black Caiman-Anaconda-Piranha Dragon ruling in the Sub-Aquatic Underworld. The levels were anchored by the Ceiba tree as the axis mundi. Each of these animals are the top predators in the three-tiered rainforest; in the case of the aquatic world, the huge twenty-five foot long caiman and anaconda were merged with the fierce, flesh devouring piranha as the master of the water and underworld.
Dr. Roe has found that the triple tiered world iconography of the site also contains references to a creation myth which held correspondences to creation mythology of cultures of rainforest origin from the Veracruz coast of Mexico to the northern Andes of Peru. In the case of the Chavín culture, the nearest correspondence to this mythology can be found in the mythology of the Shipibo Indians, who live in the montaña, or high selva region, bordering the Amazon directly to the east of the site. The actual source of the myth may be from a precursor group, who most likely lived in the Amazonian Rainforest, but it may refer to a far earlier rainforest myth. According to the Shipibo, the world began to be populated with the birth of magical twins, who emerged from a gourd, previously fertilized by the first man, which split apart when it was thrown to the ground. The Chavín version of the story replaces the gourd with a peanut, which is most appropriate for twins. In their search for food, the twins cross a lake on the back of a Caiman-canoe; unfortunately, the talkative younger twin has his leg bitten off by the caiman, dies and ascends into the sky. The older brother then kills the caiman, and keeps his jaw as a trophy. At the end of the story, the older brother, still carrying the jaw of the caiman, shoots arrows up in the sky to build a sky ladder, and ascends it to find his brother. He, and his arrows, become the Pleiades, the v-shaped mandible becomes the Hyades, and both join the one-legged brother, who can be found as the belt and dangling stars of Orion.
The monumental pyramids at the site of Chavín de Huántar were built directly into the mountains. Five levels of construction have been found at the site, and the so-called Old and New Temples stretched through a series of chambers and connecting passages into these pyramids. Two gnomons have been found in chambers whose openings pointed directly to a notch in a mountain to the west which framed the Pleiades as they set, marking the beginning of the rainy season. The rainy and wet season cycle of the region, from the Andes down to the Amazon Basin floor, closely controlled the planting and hunting practices of the region. Predicting the start of the rainy season was essential for success in planting. The first gnomon, called Lanzon, was a thirteen foot tall obelisk, carved as a were-faced figure, topped by an L-shaped notch, which was set in a cruciform shaped chamber. The figure holds a sky rope, similar to the sky ladder constructed by the elder brother in the Shipibo myth.  It also contains a speaking tube though which a priest could make the obelisk speak and call the gods into the chamber. The tunnels which connected the chambers actually amplified the winds, so that they roared as they blew through them. Beyond this chamber, a circular plaza was later constructed; a second obelisk, called Tello, which is much more intricately carved, was placed in its center. It depicts two complementary caiman-dragons, one male and one female, and includes images of a jaguar, a piranha, a harpy eagle and its night time complement the vampire bat, as well as the death of the younger brother, and the older brother with the sky rope.  Most of the imagery on both monuments refers to a rain forest, rather than a dry Andean, environment. This plaza had stairway oriented to the natural notch which would frame the Pleiades at its crucial setting. Archaeologists have also determined that the galleries entering this plaza could be blocked, and the plaza filled with water. Dr. Roe was rewarded with a barrage of questions following his thought-provoking presentation of the continuity of myth and symbolism in the Americas.
Dr. Peter Roe received his PhD from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1973, and has combined both archaeology and ethnology in his research on Caribbean and South American Indians, in the highlands and lowlands, and on both sides of the Amazon basin. He worked on excavations in the Late Prehistoric Cumancaya site, of 800 A.D., on the Ucayali River, Upper Amazon, as well as the art of the ancient Chavín Civilization of the Andes and Coast of Peru from1,000 B.C.-200 A.D. His first book was on the oral traditions of the Shipibo Indians, the Panoan Canoe Indians of the Peruvian montaña, and the comparative cosmology of the lowlands. His current position as a Professor at the University of Delaware is as a cultural anthropologist with a specialty in ethnic art. He has done ethnographic fieldwork among the Shipibo, and among the Waiwai, and Cariban Foot Indians of the Guianas in the NE quadrant of the Amazon.  He has also conducted stratigraphic archaeological excavations at six sites in Puerto Rico, an island populated from the Guianas circa 350 B.C.  He has also been, since 1978, a Visiting Associate Professor at the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, San Juan, Puerto Rico and, in 1979, a Visiting Lecturer, La Universidad Católica, Ponce, Puerto Rico. He was a Curator at the Centro de Investigaciones Indígenas de Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR  from 1985 to-2000. Among Dr. Roe's 100+ publications and 50+ professional papers is his most recent book, Arts of the Amazon, 1995, Barbara Braun, editor; his latest book chapters appear in the volumes: Symmetry Comes of Age, 2004a, Embedded Symmetries, 2004b, Ancient Borinquen, 2005a, Songs from the Sky,2005b, and Transformations in Chavín Art, 2007.

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