Condorhuasi

02
  • Environment and Geography

    The Condorhuasi culture arose in the area that is now Catamarca Province in northeastern Argentina, mainly in the Hualfín Valley. This region has broad valleys and steep ravines, a warm, dry climate and an abundance of natural resources.

  • Economy

    The Condorhuasi people based their livelihood on llama herding. These animals provided them with meat and wool, but also played an important role in the culture’s rituals and ceremonies. They also seem to have practiced agriculture as a complement to their herding activities.

  • Art

    The Condorhuasi culture is perhaps best known for its stone sculptures, which feature very fine, detailed carving with a three-dimensional effect achieved by using different angles and depths. The most characteristic of these sculptures include the so-called “supplicants”, human figures with realistic and fantastic elements that were named for their unusual stance. The culture is also known for its anthropomorphic mortars or votive fonts, some with feline feet and fangs. Some Condorhuasi stonework items were made by polishing, including masks, pipes, tembetás, and necklace beads made from lapis lazuli or turquoise. Their ceramics are polychromatic, with a polished, reddish exterior decorated with geometric motifs in black and white. A variety of different forms have been found, including seated and crawling human figures, and long, narrow-necked vessels in birdlike shapes with a beak or bill in relief near the base. These appear to have had an exclusively ritual use, as they have only been found in graves. The Condorhuasis also made ceramic musical instruments such as ocarinas and whistles.

  • Social Organization

    Given their village-based lifestyle and highly developed art forms, it is believed that Condorhuasi communities would have had chiefs who oversaw productive activities, and specialized craftspeople who worked with stone, ceramic, and metal.

  • Beliefs and Funerary Practices

    Condorhuasi cemeteries feature two different classes of graves. One of these is typically 2 to 3 meters (6 to 10 feet) deep and cylindrical, widening towards the base. The other type consists of oval or square chambers made from slabs and containing one or more bodies. Infants were sometimes buried in urns. Llamas were left as grave offerings, as well as finely made ceramic effigy vessels, gold ornaments, and feline figurines. The Condorhuasi culture is the first in this region to display the feline motif, giving rise to a belief system featuring rituals in which hallucinogenic substances were smoked in stone pipes. The rituals were believed to alter the minds of the participants to allow them to make contact with the supernatural world.

  • Settlement Pattern

    Very few Condorhuasi dwellings remain, but the ones that have been found are circular and built with stone walls. Still, it is thought that most of their structures were made from perishable materials. Silos built of slabs and mud have also been found that were used to store agricultural produce. The Condorhuasi lived small villages of a few families each.

  • History

    The Condorhuasi culture’s emphasis on animal husbandry suggests ancestral ties to the cultures of the Altiplano of southern Bolivia. Condorhuasi ceramics display similarities with the pottery of the La Candelaria culture in Argentina and the El Molle culture in the semi-arid north of Chile.

Location

Period