Friday, February 17, 2012

Real Life Megadungeons: Chavin de Huantar, Peru

At first blush Chaven de Huantar isn't much to look at. There aren't any really grand buildings or huge underground tunnels. The site was first established sometime around 1200 B.C. and abandoned around 500 B.C. It was occupied by a number of different cultures but the last one to occupy it were the Chavin culture, one of the many pre-Inca cultures in Peru. 

What makes the place unique in my opinion is how it was designed. The builders specifically included acoustical properties in the complex so that the priests can manipulate sound so that worshipers can hear it at a stele located in a central place.

From an article on the subject from Popular Archaelogy:

Says Miriam Kolar, Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow, PhD Candidate
 at Stanford University and leader of the study: 

"At Chavín, we have discovered acoustic evidence for selective sound transmission between the site's Lanzon monolith and the Circular Plaza: an architectural acoustic filter system that favors sound frequencies of the Chavín pututus [conch-shell trumpets] and human voice."

The Lanzon is a sacred statue or stela depicting the central deity of the ancient Chavín culture. It is housed in the central chamber of a series of underground passages within the Old Temple of the ceremonial and religious center of Chavín de Huántar. A central duct was built to connect the area of the monolith with that of the Circular Plaza, a place of ceremonial activity and significance. The duct was specifically designed to filter to a certain sound range -- namely, the range emitted by the Chavín pututu instrument.

Some images:

The outside.

Some tunnels:

A denizen? A goddess? A demon?

 This guy is too cheerful to be a head mounted to a wall. I wouldn't trust anything he says.

A conch shell used in ceremonies. Maybe to summon the goddess or wake the stone heads?

Something that I find particularly interest is this glyph of some sort of winged creature. Maybe another denizon of the dungeon or a god watching over it? However I also had a thought--what if you used this as a framework for a city? It could make an excellent map for a city center I think.

Same image cleaned up a bit

And now made very recognizable:

And now a map of the complex:

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