Two ancient South American temples, Chavin de Huantar and Qorkancha clearly show in their structure and design the people of ancient America’s reverence for nature gods. While both exhibit the religious values of their indigenous people the unique religious culture of each group results in a work that reveals their sacred values.
Chavin de Huantar was built by Chavin people of Peru before 1200 BCE and the site is carbon dated at least to 3000 BCE. Built in the Andes at the convergence of two rivers, the location is a tinkuay, a site where the people’s shamanistic religion believed that two opposing natural forces meet in harmony. The temple was designed as an easily accessible gathering place for pilgrims who worshiped the agricultural deity who oversaw the crops and livestock of the region. The black and white stone ruins of the elevated pyramid-like temple suggest that the labyrinthine passages all point to central chamber. There stood the Lazon Stela, an ornate stone pillar carved with a representation of their god. The god has a feline head with bared teeth and a human body, and the name “Great Spear” in Spanish suggests another word for a pointed digging stick often used in farming practices. The theme of a community gathered around a central god of bounty is reinforced by the architecture of the building. Scholars assume that although the inner chambers may have had restricted access, the temple grounds were accessible to both common and noble people.
Qorkancha, also located in the Andes region of Peru, was built by the Incas in their capital city of Cuzco during the reign of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui the 9th Inca ruler, 1438-1471 CE. It is considered the most sacred site of the Inca world. Composed of meticulously built stone walls that are skillfully stacked without mortar, the structure is composed in the shape of the sun with rays expanding from it’s center. Like Chavin de Huantar it is placed at a meeting place where cosmic forces harmonize. The site is dedicated to their highest gods, the sun god and moon goddess. Both the gold on the doors and the riches inside show the Incas’ great reverence for their gods. Within the central worship chamber with-in the most important temple, the temple of the sun, is a gold encrusted statue of their sun god which is filled with the ashes of the past rulers of Inca suggesting that at least this room was not open to commoners as the rulers were considered descended from the gods and therefore holy. However, this whole temple reinforces the glory of their gods.