Kotosh (Temple of The Crossed Hands), is the oldest architectural site of the Andes. It is believed to have had six periods of continuous occupation dating from the Pre-Ceramic Era (3000-1800 BC). This era was marked by construction of the earliest monuments, domestication of plants and animals in the Andes, use of a wide range of stone tools, and fishing and hunting activities along the coast.
The site was excavated by Japanese archaeologists between 1958 and 1962 during which they discovered interesting structures within the Temple. The temple itself is square in plan, and has one entrance on each side facing inwards. Compared with other religious structures built in this period, Kotosh was typical of highland buildings. On the coast, large, long and high platforms were superimposed on each other creating pyramids while on the highlands were stone rooms with shallow walls. Two sets of crossed hands are visible below each niche. One speculation is that the crossed hands symbolize the Southern Cross Constellation. Some people believe the crossed hands are a representation of male/female duality – The male hands representing strength, the female hands signifying intuition. Thus, duality appears to have been a central theme in Andean culture. The crossed forearm symbol is carved in stone on the temple walls, indicating that it was a significant religious mark. Today, the symbol decorates Peru’s Nuevo Sol coin. Other structures within Kotosh include a low stone bench and an open fire-pit in the center.
Kotosh temple served as a ceremonial site where rituals were regularly performed in the Early Andean community. It is believed that at the time, Andeans had not established socioeconomic differences among them. As a result, if someone was a religious leader it did not mean that they had more wealth or social power compared to the average person. Religious leaders were responsible for leading the construction and maintenance of temples.
Unlike other historical monuments that have been preserved and reconstructed a number of times, the Temple of The Crossed Hands was poorly maintained and now lies in ruins. As a result, archaeologists have had a hard time examining decorations in the temple and drawing connections about its sole purpose. It is interesting to note that there are no ruins that may reveal residence around the temple. Experts believe that Kotosh was a pilgrimage center, thus did not house many people. Evidently, other older temples have been discovered within Huánuco but The Temple of Crossed Hands is still significant to Andean history.