Temple of The Crossed Hands

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.

One thought on “Temple of The Crossed Hands

  1. After doing my archaeology project on Tiwanaku, I have learned about early Andean culture and must say that the things they were able to do so early on in human history is astounding. It seems so odd that already around 3000 BC that people were learning how to domesticate so many varieties of plants animals. Also it’s interesting to note how you mentioned that the crossed hands symbol is so evident throughout the temple. So many civilizations existed around the Andes over time, and each seemed to have adopted their own symbols of spirituality. Tiwanaku for instance had many instances of the Gate of the Sun symbol appearing, where above a doorway like structure there would be an image of a deity with a fancy headdress and birds around it. It strikes me as a curiosity how these symbols came to be, and what they actually represented. Like you said, the temple today exists as ruins of what was, which is startling considering how important these places once were. The destruction of these ancient temples and the lack of historical writing with them makes deciphering what exactly their important spiritual symbols meant and their actual uses quite the mystery. While it is possible to guess what they were used for, we cannot necessarily ascertain their uses or determine whether or not they were suitable for residency. This is simply because there is not enough currently known to be able to make definitive claims. It does raise an interesting point however when you said that it was thought the Temple of the Crossed Hands was meant for pilgrimage. It raises questions as to who exactly went, who or what were they paying tribute to exactly, and how would a place designated for religious pilgrimage come to end up so neglected? Hopefully the future holds more answers to these questions, as the ancient Andean history is certainly a fascinating one.

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