Central Andean Language Expansion and the Chavín Sphere of Interaction


in Archaeology and Language in the Andes

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265031
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754142 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Central Andean Language Expansion and the Chavín Sphere of Interaction

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)


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This chapter explores the possibility that the development of the Chavín Horizon may have stimulated the expansion of one of the major central Andean language families, particularly Aymara, once spread much more widely and further north than today. Pre-Chavín cultures on the coast and in the highlands are reviewed and found to be unlikely sources of this expansion. While the Chavín Horizon may provide a possible source for the first expansion of Aymara, in terms of both its chronology and widespread geographical impact, the ‘strong hypotheses’ proposed to explain the expansion are found to be unconvincing, particularly that linking the expansion to the adoption of maize as a staple. Other hypotheses emphasizing the role of religion and cosmopolitanism are proposed as possible alternatives. The current discussion is placed within the larger context of the history of Andean archaeology and historical linguistics and is viewed as an important step forward in resolving this long-standing problem.

Keywords: Chavín Horizon; language families; Andes; Aymara; religion; cosmopolitanism; Andean archaeology; historical linguistics

Chapter.  12375 words. 

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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