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Did Chavín society create authoritarianism?

Phillip Orange

New research led by John Rick suggests that authoritarianism may have began with the Chavín civilization.

Did Chavín society create authoritarianism?

Chavín de Huantar,2 kilometers of undgeround tunnels have been discovered by researchers. (Photo:El Comerico)

There are many forms of governments with different origins and histories, now new research by a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, John Rick is gathering evidence which he believes suggest that authoritarianism originated in Peru, with the civilization known as the Chavín.

Two Chavin gargoyles found in Chaupimarca, Pasco

Chavín culture flourished in the area that we know now as Peru during the period spanning from 900 AD to 200 AD. Research suggests that Chavín society was ruled by an elaborate priesthood and at the most active point of their history, in the capital Chavín de Huántar visitors were subjected to an array of various tricks such as underground tunnels and routes, psychoactive drugs, animal iconography and even the manipulation of light, water, and sound. This was done so the priests could exercise their authority over them.

In an interview given by Mr. Rick he stated, ““I was fascinated with the evidence we have for this idea of manipulation of people who went through ritual experiences in these structures. They needed to create a new world, one in which the settings, objects, actions, and senses all argue for the presence of intrinsic authority—both from the religious leaders and from a realm of greater powers they portray themselves as related to.”

Little evidence has been found that the common people were involved in worshipping but instead pilgrims that came from all over the Andes, usually in pursuit of elevating their status and their control on various parts of society.

Professor Rick also suggests that clear proof of manipulation can be seen in the architecture, 2 kilometers of undgeround tunnels have been discovered by researchers and they believe that they were intentionally created to give the feel of confinement making it easy to manipulate those that entered. Also another difference by the Chavín that makes them stand out from other cultures is that they carved their history in stone while others used wood and paper. Some stone carvings suggest the use of psychoactive drugs and their effects on people. All this gave the impression that the priests of the day possessed supernatural powers.

Rick summed up the interview by saying, “such places gave rise to “complex, highly authoritarian, communications-driven, sometimes charismatically led societies.”

Rick will present some of his research in his book Innovation, Religion and the Development of the Andean Formative Period.

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