The first major culture in Peru, the Chavin emerged around 1000 BC apparently in the Peruvian Andes region while some archaeological findings belonging to the Chavin even can be traced back another 1000 years earlier. While there are many theories about the Chavin, little concrete is known.
For most the Chavin culture laid the cultural foundation for all later Peruvian civilizations. The Chavin culture flourished from 900 BC to 200 BC. Starting presumably as a cultural-religious movement with a priest highest in the hierarchy, it soon developed into an organized civilization which spread outward throughout the Peruvian coast and part of the Andes Mountains.
Main economic activities were based on hunting, fishing and agriculture. The Chavin domesticated animals and plants. They created methods of irrigation and used these to farm areas around rivers and lagoons. The Chavin culture represents the first widespread, recognizable artistic style in Peru. Chavin art is very distinctive with unique metalwork, here especially the exceptional gold pieces, often misunderstood and strange pottery as well as amazing textiles and religious objects.
Until their decline at the beginning of the Christian era the Chavin built or left their characteristic traces on numerous imposing structures. The most well-known religious center of the Chavin quite surely is the archaeological complex of Chavin de Huantar, located in the Andean highlands about 350km north of Lima. But also in the Lima area the Chavin culture seemed to have played a major role.
The Chavín at the Central Coast
The most important remain of their presence is the "Huaca Garagay" located in today's district of "San Martín de Porres" in Lima. While some experts consider the ceremonial center of Garagay a typical Chavin structure, others make clear that Garagay was constructed over generations by other civilizations a few hundred years before the Chavin even emerged. Either way the Chavin left unmistakably their unique traces on this huge complex and other huacas at the central Peruvian coast.
Despite the importance of the Huaca Garagay, it was neglected, squatted, plundered, damaged on purpose and partly even built on. Just in recent years the awareness for this valuable construction grew among the authorities and a few citizens. The Ministry of Culture offers on demand guided tours through the complex (A great way to admire the unique architecture and urban planning of early civilizations in the Lima area).