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Cult of a cat's predator in mythological beliefs of civilizations of the Central Andes


UDC 291.212.4






The mythology of cultures of the Central Andes is insufficiently studied subject in the Russian historiography. The purpose of work consists in the analysis of a cult of a cat's predator and identification of the main functions of this animal in religious representations of cultures of the Central Andes. It was for this purpose used, generally iconographic material (as the studied civilizations are unwritten cultures). The main functions of deities with lines of a cat's predator are as a result established: they were symbols of the power, primogenitors of the tribe or a royal dynasty, patrons of agriculture, fertility and cattle breeding, predominated in the terrestrial and/or underground worlds.

Now American studies are dynamically developing direction of historical science. Despite a significant amount of the works lighting history of civilizations of the New World in domestic science till today exists some historians who are engaged in studying civilizations of the Centralnoandsky region (V.A. Bashilov, Yu.E. Berezkin, S.N. Yakushenkov). At the same time, concerning the history of ancient societies, there is a huge number of unresolved questions. The research of civilizations of the Central Andes gives the richest material for understanding of attitude of ancient people and the related mythological ideas.

The complexity at a research consists in rather small study of the Centralnoandsky region in a domestic historiography. Unfortunately, many of the existing works (V.A. Bashilova, J. Bushnella, V.G. Zubareva) have the generalizing character and are not aimed at the solution of specific objectives, but, at the same time, they contain the richest iconographic material and also attempts of its comparative analysis on many cultures of the Central Andes. Problems at study svya-

zana and with the fact that it is necessary to deal with unwritten civilizations. Therefore, in most cases, we are forced to be limited only to determination of semantic value of mythological characters and the analysis of keeping of certain iconographic characters and plots whereas the attempt to reconstruct a full plot of the myth is not represented possible. Besides, interpretation of many iconographic plots, obviously mythological contents, in the absence of comparable folklore material, is impossible.

The most interesting material on culture, economic life and cosmogonic representations of ancient Americans konkist give chronicles of times. In spite of the fact that chronicles are written not earlier than the 16th century, they reflect history of the people inhabiting the continent long before its opening by Europeans. It is necessary to address also the works of foreign authors not only illustrating the history of cultures in the social and economic plan, but also showing a role of mythological beliefs in life of the autochthonic population of the Central Andes. Considerably materials of the foreign conferences and symposiums devoted to a research of separate aspects of mythology of ancient Indians help with judgment of religious representations.

Thus, reconstruction of religious representations of centralnoandsky civilizations should be carried out on the basis of the analysis of the iconographic motives and ancient mythological images which remained in beliefs of some nowadays existing native people of America reached us and also being guided by the Spanish chronicles of times of opening of the continent and work of foreign historians.

Our purpose is the analysis of evolution of iconographic plots with images of beings with lines of cat's predators and definition of their connection with mythological ideas. The comparative-historical method which allowed to reveal the common and peculiar features in a stump of a cat's predator in the population of South America was for this purpose used. At the same time it was succeeded to consider evolution of an image of a cat's predator in mythological ideas of Indians of the Central Andes (diakhronny analysis) and to define characteristics of a cult of this animal at separate cultures (synchronous analysis). Besides, historical and mythological, structural-semantic methods were applied.

Cat family predators - one of the most widespread sacred animals. Their types were cult objects in many civilizations during different historical eras. Not an exception is also the American continent where they were a favourite subject of Indian mythology.

The most ancient of the cultures of the Central Andes the civilization Chavin (HP-USh of one or IV centuries BC of century AD) is considered. Chavin and the subsequent centralnoandsky civilizations had an opportunity of wide circulation and development in connection with existence of two favorable factors. Refer abundance of precious metals to their number on the northern coast and in mountains and cultivation of a cotton on the central and southern coast. Therefore the majority of the analyzed iconographic plots are engravings on a jewelry and figuration on textiles (later - on ceramics) 1.

Cat family predators, especially a jaguar and a puma, were most brightly presented in culture Chavin and in early art of the Central Andes in general. Some researchers claim that "the dominating role was played by a puma", based on the fact of her distribution across all territory of South America while "the jaguar lived only in tropical forests" 2. The research of objects of art proves that on the majority of images cat's the markings of indumentum allowing to identify an animal as a jaguar do not meet.

1 Acosta J. de. Natural and moral history of the Indies. Vol. 2. London, 1892. P. 138.
2 J. Bushnell of Peru. From early hunters to the empire of Inca. M, 2003. Page 17.

Means, the similar assumption is very fair, but we cannot approve also complete dominance of a puma in an iconography Chavin as the archeological finds which are precisely showing a jaguar are also not unique.

In the Central Andes two types of an iconography of cat's predators meet - in their natural look and in combination with other animals and/or the person.

In a natural look cat's quite often are shown on jewelry and in small plasticity where all elements (fig. 1) very in details appear. As usual, at cat family predators in Chavin style, the end of a tail is created as a snake, or as it is called still - "a snake of a cat". There is also other version (the truth, more rare) images of predators in Chavin - the mirror display of the head in a profile decorating a back part of an animal. In most cases in such two-profile composition two adjacent faces in a profile are attached to the general image of a trunk so that they can be read how two independent silhouettes. This type of the image repeats with insignificant modifications, both in a flat carving, and in volume skulpture3.

Fig. 1. A gold plate with the image of a cat's predator 400-300 BC Chavin4

Also are presented in the natural form of a cat in stone reliefs and engravings on ceramics - for example, it is a relief on eaves in a southwest part of the New Temple in Chavin-de-Uantar (fig. 2). In these cases the predatory cats are magnificently decorated with the stylized images of snakes that sometimes even complicates perception of a plot.

Fig. 2. The image of a cat's predator on eaves in the New Temple,

Chavin-de-U antar5

It is possible to call the above-mentioned types of images classical for art Chavin style - in them the main stylistic receptions of the image of cat's are shown:

>- round, widely open eye with an eyebrow in the form of a snake;

>- a cat's mouth with the crossed canines;

3 Burger R. Chavin//Andean Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Washington, 1996. P. 50-54.
4 The cult of the feline. A Conference in Pre-Columbian Iconography. Washington, 1970. P. 73.
5 Ibid. P. 71.

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>- markings of indumentum in the form of the turned eight;

>- paws with huge claws; a tail and mustache in the form of a fancy interlacing


Special importance of cat's motive was always emphasized in discussions of art Chavin style. So, H.K. Telyo claimed that "Jaguar was a basic element of art Chavin". He also established that "word "chav"" in one of the Caribbean languages is meant by "Jaguar", and "chavinav" - "sons of a jaguar with copies" 6. Chavin treats culture artifacts Raymondi's (fig. z) stele. On it the anthropomorphous deity with snakes at a belt holding staffs in hand and combining lines of the person and a jaguar (canines, claws) is represented. Existence in hands at the deity of two staffs symbolizing the power gives the chance to interpret the represented being as the Supreme deity in a pantheon Chavin. Often instead of staffs the deity holds corn ears in hand that represents protection fertility.

Fig. 3. Stele of Raymondi7

Chavin style elements: peculiar motives and artistic touches like metaphorical replacement, two-profile compositions, accurate bilateral symmetry, - are found in many regions which sometimes are not entering an influence zone Chavin. It means that some art features were borrowed and widespread representatives of later cultures.

In parallel with culture Chavin in a river basin Magdalena (a little to the north from the geographical area considered by us) existed culture San Agustin, also with frequent use in art of cat's motive. In view of remoteness of territories of cultures Chavin and San Agustin and also in connection with essential differences in an iconography and semantics of cat's images, it is possible to conclude that in San Agustin the cat's motive, being borrowed, developed further irrespective of a cult cat's in Chavin.

In San Agustin a large number of stone statues, the majority of which obviously expressed cat's lines have, is found. The existing differences in a form, position of a body, technology of production are explained by researchers belonging to the different periods of time. However archaeological data do not allow to systematize finds on time sozdaniya8.

All known sculptures can be united in three groups: scenes of attack of a predator of a jaguar on the woman; figures of the person with cat's lines and compositions in which the person jaguar is in escort of other fantastic beings. Apparently, the cat's predator here is always shown with the person, and sometimes is even associated. The explanation of such artistic touch is in religious beliefs where, obviously, similar communication is reflection of the central mythological theme.

Quite close to the area of dissemination of culture San Agustin lives several thousands of Indians of language group of a chibch who kept some ancient elements in mythological ideas so far. So, the myth according to which, "once at the beginning of times for the young girl the jaguar attacked and raped then she gave birth to the child thunder is known. The boy grew up, sover-

6 V.A. Bashilov. Ancient civilizations of Peru and Bolivia. M, 1972. Page 52.
7 Burger R. Chavin//Andean Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Washington, 1996. P. 51.
8 Reichel-Dolmatoff G. The feline motif in prehistoric San Agustin sculpture//The cult of the feline. A Conference in Pre-Columbian Iconography. Washington, 1970. P. 51.

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sewed many feats and became the famous hero whose children united in themselves lines of the person and a jaguar. After the death of the hero, his spirit continued to live on the river bank, declaring oneself peals of a thunder" 9. The thunder is close connected with spirit of a jaguar and shamans who during a trance could reincarnate in jaguars or during a thunder.

This myth explains the meaning of stone statues San Agustin and pushes on carrying out a parallel between motive of violence of the Indian woman a cat's predator and origin from this communication of deities or the new tribe of people. This subject often meets in Indian mythology. It is interesting what here is told about origin not of all human race, and only its separate group while other people conducted the sort from other animals, trees and very much were afraid of people jaguars. It is possible to tell that the jaguar acts as a totemic animal, only applicable not to one sort, and to the whole culture.

Culture Chavin who is, according to many Americanists, the ancestor of all subsequent civilizations not only in the Central Andes but also in other regions of South America, had the most noticeable impact on culture Parakas (UP-1 of centuries BC). Comparing the main motives Chavin and early culture Parakas, we can find much in common in art and the main receptions of the image of mythological beings that Parakas at Chavin, and, so and about similarity of their mythological beliefs allows to draw a conclusion on continuity of an iconography of the main deities of culture.

Depending on features of an iconography it will be expedient to consider three periods Parakas - early, average and late. Tangled and difficult elements Chavin meet on the majority of the found ceramics and fragments of fabrics of early Parakas style. It is easy to notice that the majority of images cat's represent very exact copies of stone bas-reliefs from temples in Chavin-de-Uantar. The most widespread ornament on fabrics is the figure of the anthropomorphous cat's deity with staffs in hands which is quite clearly reminding a relief on Raymondi's stele.

This deity and also other figures at Chavin style are present also at ceramics, but at more simplified, stylized look, without portrayals of fine details that demonstrates insufficiently developed skill of painting of ceramics.

The average period Parakas was characterized by fast increase in number of local styles in connection with processing of traditional Chavin style. Large cat's predators still dominate in art of an illustration, but begin to lose gradually the aggressive manner, huge canines and claws disappear. Within the 5th century BC culture Parakas underwent one more wave of external influence. The radical shift in art of an illustration was result. The attention concentrates around an anthropomorphous figure of the deity having in itself, generally lines of a bird and a snake (remind of cats only mustache and markings of a hair cover) 10. During the late period the new deity gains further development, and the obscure cat's figure with staffs is gradually forgotten.

In process of disappearance from the historical arena of a civilization Chavin, also its influence on the next cultures weakened; the motives of large predatory Jaguar used earlier are forced out by other animals - a mountain cat, an eagle, a monkey, an otter, etc. There is a combination an ocelot otter symbolizing itself abundance of water, fertility.

Indians Mochika (I—VII centuries) were also familiar with a jaguar. "we build the cultural Mochika complex mainly to two sources - cultures Chavin and Salinar", first of which and Mochika brought the filinoidny inheritance. Yu.E. Berezkin, comparing these cultures, marks out signs of the Mochika style, "yav-

9 Ibid. P. 56.
10 Sawyer A. The feline in Paracas art//The cult of the feline. A Conference in Pre-Columbian Iconography. Washington, 1970. P. 91.

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but going back to Chavin: the realistic volume image of people and animal, especially cat's predators (in Salinar that and others are more schematical and primitive), and the image of the anthropomorphous deity with canines in a mouth and snakes at the head and (or) a belt (Salinar completely is absent)" 11. Thus, many iconographic motives in art Mochika connected with use of cat's lines go back to Chavin. Though, perhaps, there were also other sources.

the Jaguar and a puma meet in an iconography Mochika from the very beginning of existence of this culture. These are anthropomorphous images of predators of the cat family on hinder legs. This feature in general was very peculiar to mo-chiksky art, in ornaments on ceramics Mochika with enviable repeatability meet scenes of processions of the animals personifying as Yu.E. Berezkin claims, separate social groups of mochiksky society. Among the mythical beings participating in solemn processions the image of the cat's deity is frequent. Distinctive signs "a puma or a jaguar are the thick long tail, a muzzle of a predator". It is possible to determine a jaguar by the corresponding markings of indumentum. Similar "the character is usually shown in the soldier's suit, with a board or a club, almost without jewelry". It allows to say about participation of the cat's deity in war and its protection voinam12.

Considering a number of plots on ceramics Mochika, we can notice some regularity in use of cat's motive. When the cat's predator is represented in the form of the anthropomorphous being standing on hinder legs, it usually is not distinguished from some other characters. However there are also images of a jaguar or a puma at their natural look. In this case they are always located near such figure as god with beams: near it, in its stretcher or near a throne. Yu.E. Berezkin considers that this character personified the Supreme lord, or lords of mochiksky society as at Mochika "the governor was not individual: he or governed with co-governors, or was elected for a certain term" 13.

Besides, in a number of burials there are canines and claws of predatory cat's. The accompanying archaeological material of such burials clearly demonstrates that the dead were representatives of elite of mochiksky society, and, perhaps, were also governors. These facts allow to speak about cat's

a predator also as about a symbol of the power in Indian mythology.

The ceremonial center of Tiwanaku С^1-Х1 centuries) it is interesting by a large number of the stone constructions and sculptures giving material for understanding of religious bases of this culture. The most interesting construction are Inti-Lunku ("A gate of the sun") (fig. 4). The top part of gate is decorated with a rich relief in which center a figure of "the crying deity" - Virakochi who was the creator of the Universe and all real in representations local zhiteley14.

Fig. 4. Virakocha. A figure on the top eaves on "A gate of the sun", Tiauanako15

11 Berezkin Yu.E. Mochika. Civilization of Indians of the Northern coast of Peru in the 1-7th centuries M., 1983. Page 21-22.
12 In the same place. Page 95.
13 In the same place. Page 139.
14 J. Bushnell. Decree. soch. Page 41-42.
15 Rivero M.E., Tschudi J.J. Peruvian antiquities. New York, 1858. P. 213.

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The bird of prey and a puma constantly accompany the image of the Supreme deity. For all era of development of the Andean civilization, since culture Chavin and finishing Tiwanaku (and even with the empire of Inca), the image of the Supreme deity did not undergo special changes. It is a consequence of continuity of cultures and their interrelations. As the Supreme lord, the creator of all real, Virakocha steadily appears accompanied by a bird, a puma and a snake that symbolizes its power over all three levels mira16. In tripartite division of the world cat's patronized the terrestrial level of the universe, in binomial structure - underground and/or terrestrial.

Domination in the underground world was shown in such functions of the cat's deity as protection agriculture and cattle breeding. As predators, cat's protected crops from herbivores, hunting them. At the same time the fertility in religious representations ancient was always inseparably linked with a cult of the died ancestors - primogenitors as whom in many cultures and the cat's predator acted.

Cat family predators - one of the most widespread elements in cosmogonic representations of the autochthonic population of the South American continent. Nevertheless, despite its prevalence in America, the image of the cat's deity had a huge number of the variations connected with a geographical location of a civilization and time of its existence.

In the ancient cultures of the Central Andes the cult of a cat's predator - the ancestor or the patron - is shown almost everywhere, substituting for itself all other deities (Chavin, the early period Parakas). The analysis of iconographic plots allows to allocate the main functions of a cat's predator as supernatural being in religious beliefs of ancient Americans:

>- in tripartite structure of the world of a cat symbolize themselves the terrestrial world (in binomial - the terrestrial and underground worlds) and patronize agriculture and cattle breeding;

>- cat's were represented not only as divine patrons, but also as primogenitors of the tribe, the people or a ruling dynasty, than and the huge amount of the iconographic motives showing fantastic people jaguars and also presence at shamans of ability to reincarnate during a trance in cats speaks;

>- cat's - one of the most widespread symbols of the power. They steadily accompany the Supreme god (or are him) and also terrestrial governors.

Depending on geographical conditions the cat's predator was presented by a jaguar, a puma or a mountain cat. In art of the Central Andes the cat's predator is strongly stylized, is in combination with vegetable ornaments (Chavin) or represents the anthropomorphous deity (Mochika) with lines not only cat's, but also other animals - an eagle, fish, a snake (Parakas, Tiwanaku, Nazca).

The frequent repeatability of cat's motive in mythology and an iconography everywhere in the territory of America (both in South America regarded by us, and in Mesoamerica) forces many scientists to look for the genetic linkages proving continuity of all civilizations of the New World from any to one, the earliest on emergence time. However presence of a cult of a cat's predator or domestic cats at many cultures not only on the American continent, but also beyond its limits, once again confirms universality and identity of the religious beliefs and art styles based on worship of cat family predators at different people of the world. The jaguar, a puma and other large cats blew the mind of ancient people, forcing them, is independent

16 S.N. Yakushenkov. Semiotics analysis of spiritual culture of Aimar of Peru and Bolivia. Astrakhan, 1999. Page 29.

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from each other to choose a furious predator as the primogenitor, the patron or the Supreme deity.


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The mythology of the cultures of Central Andes is a theme, which studied insufficiently in the Russian historiography. The objective of our work consists in the analysis of a cult of the feline and detection of the basic functions of these animals in religious representations in the cultures of Central Andes. We used iconographic material for revealing the basic functions of the feline as supernatural beings in mythological beliefs because these civilizations were unwritten cultures. As a result, we established the basic functions of the feline deities: they were power symbols, primogenitors of a tribe or a royal dynasty, patrons of agriculture, fertility and cattle breeding; they predominated in the terrestrial and underground worlds.

Kristopher Ira John
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