7 junio, 2024

Chavín ceramics: origin, characteristics, outstanding works

The chavin pottery It was the one developed by the culture of the same name in ancient Peru. It is considered the first artistic style that was generalized in the Andes. The members of this civilization took advantage of the influence of other previous cultures, such as sechin or caral.

The Chavín culture, whose main center was Chavín de Huántar, developed in the present department of Áncash during the Early Horizon (1200 BC – 400 BC). At the time of its discovery, it was considered the mother culture of the Andean civilizations, although the discovery of the older Caral culture stripped it of that consideration.

Tello affirmed that the origin of the Chavín culture was in the Amazon, since in its artistic manifestations an iconography typical of that jungle region appeared. This iconography is particularly present in ceramics.

The members of this culture left samples of their ability for architecture, sculpture and ceramics. The latter was almost always monochrome, modeled and polished and decorated with various techniques. The pieces had two main uses: utilitarian, for day to day, and ceremonial, in religious rituals.



The Chavín culture was an archaeological culture that appeared in Peru during the Early Horizon. Its development took place in the city and ceremonial center of Chavín de Huántar, located in the upper basin of the Marañón River, in the department of Áncash.

Archaeologists have called the development of Chavín a cultural horizon, since it exerted a great influence on other contemporary and later civilizations.

At the time when this culture developed, religious worship was growing in importance. In addition, there was the appearance of ceramics, whose use was related to ceremonial centers.

On the other hand, it was also a period in which corn cultivation intensified, agricultural techniques improved, and metallurgy and textiles began to develop.

The discoverer of the Chavín culture affirmed that his had an Amazonian origin. His conclusion was based on the study of the remains found, especially the ceramic pieces. Numerous jungle animal and plant species appeared in the decoration of these.

Times of ceramic production

The pieces found have been a key element to be able to study the Chavín culture. Thanks to them, information about their religion and other cultural manifestations has been obtained.

The work with ceramics in the Chavín culture has been divided into two temporary stages according to the shapes of the pieces made:

rock stage: in this period, the pieces had a globular shape, a flat base and included a tubular-shaped handle.
Season of offerings: the shape tended to be bell-shaped and the necks and necks much thinner.

Characteristics of Chavín ceramics

Chavín ceramics is considered one of its most extraordinary artistic manifestations. In general terms, it was a monochrome ceramic, although sometimes it was decorated with black-silver and red colors.

A very common decorative element was the series of dots. In addition, animals such as monkeys, cats, snakes, birds and lizards were often represented; some plants, mainly tubers; or anthropomorphic beings.

Techniques and shapes

The ceramics of this culture had very marked sculptural elements, something that made it unique in the region at that time. Its casting was carried out in clay ovens fed with charcoal.

The material used by the artisans was of high quality and very compact. The finishes were distinguished by the extraordinary polishing in black, brown or red.

The walls of the finished rooms were thin and decorated with sophisticated images, raised or carved, related to religion.

To carve or sculpt these figures, the artisans used a technique called contour rivalry. Thanks to it, they were able to sculpt anatropic images, that is, they offered different interpretations depending on the position or angle from which they were viewed.

The most common thing was that the creations functioned as containers. These pitchers or vases were shaped like a globular bulb and measured about 50 centimeters in diameter. The base was completely flat.

These pieces had, for the most part, a thick tubular handle with internal channels. The mouth, vertical and cylindrical, was located in the upper part, which was a representative characteristic of the ceramics of the Chavín culture.

On the other hand, the area of ​​the bulb of the pieces were, on occasions, adorned with reliefs made by means of incisions, grooves or the so-called splash of thorns. This endowed the pieces with great elegance and a unique texture.

Manufacture without molds

As in the rest of its artistic manifestations, the Chavín culture decorated its ceramics with a great variety of animals: felines (especially jaguars), birds of prey, lizards, monkeys, snakes, etc. In addition, they also used supernatural figures, with fangs and ferocious features.

Most of the animal species represented are typical of the jungle areas of lower altitude, in the Amazon. This, according to experts, confirms that there was a relationship between civilizations that were hundreds of kilometers away.

For their part, the tubular vessels that were not decorated with animals resemble hemispherical fruits with a thorny texture. According to the experts, the artisans were inspired by custard apples, guanabas and some tubers.


Chavín pottery can be divided into two types according to the function for which it was intended:

ceremonial pottery: intended for the celebration of rituals and religious ceramics.
utilitarian ceramics: the one that was elaborated to be used daily.

The remains found seem to indicate that the ceramics of the first type, the ceremonial ones, were more sophisticated than the utilitarian ones. Among other aspects, they had a decoration in which religious symbology stood out, with gods in animal forms. It is thought that only the priests could understand the meaning of the figures.

Despite this greater sophistication, in the first stage of the Chavín culture, the so-called urabarriu, life was more rural and ceramics had a more utilitarian function. It was not until this town became more urban, in the Chakinani stage, that pottery techniques were perfected and they began to make more ceremonial pieces.

Finally, in the Janabarriu phase, society became more clearly stratified. Thus, specialized potters whose works were focused on religion appeared. Its ceramics began to be in great demand for offerings to the gods.

Outstanding works

Most of the ceramic pieces were in the container style, such as pitchers and vases. These had the shape of a globular bulb and a flat base.

In addition, bowls and bottles and glasses were also common. The design contained points or circles, as well as zoomorphic, phytomorphic or anthropomorphic representations.

globular body vessels

The most common piece of Chavín pottery was the vessel with a globular body, stirrup handle, and cylindrical neck. As has been pointed out, most of them had animal decoration, but there were also those that only reminded of some oblong fruits.

anthropomorphic figures

Although the Chavín culture focused more on sculpture, some anthropomorphic figures made with ceramics have also been found. These figures were represented frontally, standing and with open arms. Likewise, its potters made some types of masks.


Chavin culture. Chavin ceramics. Retrieved from culturachavin.org
Culture 10. Ceramics of the Chavín culture. Retrieved from cultura10.org
EcuRed. Chavin culture. Obtained from ecured.cu
Cartwright, Mark. Chavin Civilization. Retrieved from ancient.eu
Druc, Isabelle C. Ceramic diversity in Chavin de Huantar, Peru. Recovered from go.gale.com
City of Tampere. The Chavin Culture. Retrieved from tampere.fi

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