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At the site of Chavín da Huantar in the Andes, a cultural interest in linking the layers of the cosmos presents itself through the Lanzón, or “Great Lance.” The Lanzón, a monolithic sculpture situated at the heart of the Old Temple at Chavín de Huantar, was a point of reverence for the people of Chavín. Like Quetzalcoatl, from Mesoamerica, the Lanzón holds a cosmological significance; it acts as link between the upper and the lower worlds. The Lanzón acted as a conduit for the supernatural. The surface of the Lanzón communicates the unity between the celestial and terrestrial spheres. The Lanzón’s surface is adorned with a low relief carving of a human figure. Urton posits the body, human or animal, was used as a visual tool by Chavín artists to classify and communicate meaning1. The figure is depicted with a raised right arm and lowered left arm. The gesture signifies of cosmological unity and stands to emphasize the theme of ascent and descent through this point of transition2. Originally situated in the restricted confines of the Old Temple, viewing of the surface adornment would have been an intimate experience. The Lanzón, 4.5m (15’) in height, towers over the viewer penetrating both the earth below and the ceiling above its central form3. It can be said that appreciation of surface adornment in its entirety was intended for the omnipotent gods, and as such the Lanzón functioned link the terrestrial and celestial worlds through its duality in viewership.

Gary Utron, "The Body of Meaning in Chavín Art." RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 29/30 (1996): 237-55.

1

Rebecca Stone, “Art of the Andes: from Chavín to Inca.” London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, (2012): 40.

2

Rebecca Stone, “Art of the Andes: from Chavín to Inca.” London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, (2012): 39-40.

3


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Traversing the Cosmos through Cultures: Ascension and Descension in the Pre-Columbian Americas  
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