The Amazon basin holds a treasure of great and monumental buildings, created by the ancient civilizations that inhabited it. Among them is the Huari civilization, one of the most significant pre-Inca cultures in South America.
Tucked high up in the mountains are sombre grey stone monasteries adorned with Christian images and carved into caves, deep gorges or mountain peaks; you can’t help but appreciate the immense effort these people took to carve their place into this landscape.
Located in Peru’s northern jungle region, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) north of Lima at an altitude between 2,000 and 3,300 metres (6,560–10,800 ft), almost all of Huari culture was believed to have been wiped out by the Wari (a neighbouring culture) in around 500 AD.
Trujillo, a city near Peru’s northern border with Ecuador and Colombia, is one of the few places where these ancient Huari buildings are found. There, you can find many cultural treasures including the Huaca de la Luna or ‘Temple of the Moon’, which was used as a large religious centre for ceremonies. It also housed priests and their families; however today only parts of the building remain visible due to looting and earthquakes that toppled most of it. The remaining structures are part of a museum for visitors, but if you go just outside Trujillo into the hills nearby you can see more examples still intact.
Evidence of early rock-cut architecture can be found as far back as the second millennium BC in South America when the Chavín culture (a formative preceramic Peruvian archaeological culture) began creating religious monuments in Peru’s Central Andes. The most famous example is that of a temple cut into a rock cliff on the side of a mountain near Huaraz, which is attributed to this culture. Later on, it was developed by other cultures such as the Paracas people and better known for their artistic skills, who were also blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Another great example built by these people are three small but exquisite monasteries perched high up on cliffs just outside Chavin de Huantar, Ayacucho.
However, it is the Huari culture that really shines, since they were known for constructing incredible buildings such as temples and fortresses that are still standing today. The most impressive is Sayaqmarka or ‘The Rock of God’, which was carved out of a rocky hillside outside of Huari to function as an astrological observatory. At one point it was considered to be a religious temple, although none of its structures remains intact today due to earthquakes; it has been rebuilt using the latest techniques so visitors can get a full view from both within and without the rock itself.