You are here:Home/Research/ Pre-Columbian Studies/ Scholarly Activities/ Reconsidering the Chavín Phenomenon in the 21st Century

Reconsidering the Chavín Phenomenon in the 21st Century

Dumbarton Oaks
October 5  –  6, 2018
Register for the event
Pre-Columbian Studies Symposium, Richard L. Burger and Jason Nesbitt, Symposiarchs

Chavín de Huántar has long been considered crucial to understanding the emergence of ancient Andean civilization during the late Initial Period (1100–800 BCE) and Early Horizon (800–400 BCE). The site is perhaps best known as a ceremonial center that consisted of a temple core with monumental platforms, interior galleries, and plaza spaces, as well as finely carved stone sculpture. However, Chavín de Huántar was not a vacant ceremonial center, but also boasted a residential sector that covered an area of more than fifty hectares. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the inhabitants of Chavín de Huántar had access to exotic resources that came from distant sources, indicating that the settlement was enmeshed in a far-flung exchange network encompassing much of the Central Andes.  

For these reasons, scholars now believe that the ascendency of Chavín de Huántar was not an isolated phenomenon. During the early first millennium BCE, when Chavín was prospering, the contemporary cultures of the Peruvian coast, highlands, ceja de selva, and tropical forest regions underwent socioeconomic, technological, and religious transformations. The synchronicity of these widespread changes, coupled with intrusive Chavín material culture and iconography at distant centers, suggests that Chavín de Huántar influenced a large region through the expansion of religious ideology and intensified long-distance interaction. The pan-Andean influence of Chavín de Huántar has led some scholars to refer to a “Chavín Horizon” or “Chavín Interaction Sphere,” while others, feeling less certain about its nature, refer to a “Chavín Phenomenon.”

Over the last fifteen years, a surge in archaeological research at Chavín contemporary sites throughout the Andes has generated a wealth of new data that has created opportunities for a critical reassessment of models of interregional interaction during these periods. This symposium seeks to use these investigations to create an updated synthesis of Chavín as a regional phenomenon.  


The symposium is organized by Richard Burger (Yale University) and Jason Nesbitt (Tulane University). Symposium contributors include Rebecca Bria, David Chicoine, Ryan Clasby, Lisa DeLeonardis, Jahl Dulanto, Yuichi Matsumoto, Christopher Pool, John Rick, Matthew Sayre, Yuji Seki, Lucy Salazar, and Michelle Young.