Chavin de Huantar lies in a narrow valley in the high Andes, 3,200m (10,500ft) above sea level. You can’t see the temple until you’re in it. The dramatic, vertical landscape was the carefully chosen location for this exquisite example of Chavin architecture. The bottom of the valley, where two rivers meet, dominates the flat land around it and would have attracted visitors from miles around.
The temple, now protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site, is thought to have first been occupied around 5,000 years ago, becoming a cultural centre for people living in ancient Peru in about 1,000BC.
“Chavin was built in a risky spot, in a highly flood-prone location,” explains John Rick, associate professor of anthropology, Stanford. “They were aware of the risk of floods and they built towards these risks and not away from them. The monumentality was not only to impress visitors but also to tell them that the creators were capable of challenging nature successfully. And they did very well with it.”