Archaeologists discover hidden tunnels under Chavín de Huantar in Peru

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Archaeologists first noticed a conduit in 2019 that opened into the ceremonial chamber since dubbed the Condor Gallery.

Antamina/TwitterThe ceremonial gallery under the Chavín de Huántar temple complex.

A team of archaeologists exploring Chavín de Huántar, a 3,000-year-old temple complex in the Peruvian Andes, made a stunning discovery. Beneath the ancient temple, they discovered hidden tunnels leading to a chamber, which contains artifacts left behind by the Chavín people.

“It’s one passage, but it’s very different,” archaeologist John Rick of Stanford University, who coordinated the team behind the find, told Reuters. “It’s another form of construction. It has characteristics of earlier periods that we have never seen in the passages.

Beneath the temple, Rick and his team found 35 interconnecting tunnels, a ceremonial gallery and two ceremonial bowls, one of which contained depictions of the Andean condor. In a nod to the animal on the bowl, they dubbed the gallery the Condor Gallery.

The discovery was slow in coming. Archaeologists from Stanford University’s Chavín de Huantar Archaeological Research and Conservation Program first suspected the existence of the gallery in 2019 when they noticed a tiny vent in Building D of the temple, according to Heritage. Daily.

Then they used a small robotic camera to explore space. It exposed a gallery and a chamber where archaeologists could barely make out a shadowy object on the floor. Before they could investigate further, however, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

John Rick Condor Bowl

AntaminaJohn Rick with the ancient bowl, filled with condor symbolism, which he found under the temple.

After several long years, Rick and his team finally returned to Chavín de Huántar in 2022. Then, like a modern-day Indiana Jones, Rick squeezed through the passage, which was only 40 centimeters in diameter, or about 15 inches.

According to Antamina, the mining company that funded his research, the passageway led to the previously photographed gallery, where Rick came across the object he had seen on the robotic camera two years earlier.

“There wasn’t just one stone bowl,” he told Reuters. “There were two.”

The first stone bowl, weighing nearly 40 pounds and measuring nearly 10 inches tall, depicted an Andean condor’s head on one side, its tail on the other, and its wings in between. The second bowl, about the same size, was simpler in design and had a refined rim.

According to Antamina, the bowls were probably left as an offering when the gallery was closed around 3,000 years ago. Rick noted that the gallery itself appears to have been “purely ceremonial” and a “transitional” site between the Caral people, who flourished in South America at the same time as Egyptians around the world built their pyramids, and the Chavín people later.

Site of Chavon de Huantar

Apollo/Wikimedia CommonsThe temple complex of Chavín de Huantar in Peru.

According to Heritage Daily, Chavín de Huántar was built by the Chavín people before the arrival of the Incas. They settled at the site between 900 and 500 BC and remained until about 200 BC

At that time, their temple played an important role in daily life, and today it is a UNESCO heritage site.

“Chavin was a ceremonial and pilgrimage center for the Andean religious world and welcomed people from different latitudes, distances and languages,” according to UNESCO.

“[It became] an important center of convergence and ideological, cultural and religious diffusion around a cult spread over a vast territory from the Andes, to the northern, central and southern coasts, the northern highlands and the high jungle of Peru.

As such, the discovery of the tunnels, the gallery and the bowl of the Andean condor is particularly exciting. It offers insight into how the ancient peoples of Peru once lived, how they worshipped, and what animals they thought worthy of including in their religious spaces.


After reading about the tunnels discovered under Chavín de Huántar, learn how Egyptian archaeologists discovered vibrant frescoes at the Temple of Khnum that had been hidden under bird droppings. Or learn about the Mayan artifacts unearthed at the Balamku Cave site.

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