Stanford University

Chavín de Huántar in Peru

John Rick

Chavín de Huántar is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Central Andes of Peru. The site is a ceremonial center consisting of major temple mounds, plazas, and an intricate labyrinth of underground passageways of galleries and canals. Located in the north-central highlands of Peru, Chavín has long been recognized as the key site for understanding the beginnings of later Andean states and empires like the Inca. In particular, Chavín seems to have been a cult center where priestly leaders went to exceptional lengths - including using hallucinogenic drugs and manipulating light and sound within mystifying complex architecture - to convince elite Andean contemporaries of the validity of their supernatural authority.

Undergraduate Field School

The student experience in Chavín de Huántar focuses on:

  • Archaeological excavation
  • Archaeological record-keeping
  • Photography and photogrammetry
  • Surveying and documentation
  • Cultural exchange and Spanish language

The Chavín de Huántar field school has both pre-departure and post-return training requirements. Accepted field school students will be in contact with Professor Rick and Archaeology Center staff to schedule the pre-departure training for spring quarter. In the fall quarter after the field season, all field school students are required to enroll in ARCHLGY 100D: Chavín de Huántar Research Seminar. 

The basic goal of the Chavín field school is to give Stanford students field training in a broad range of archaeological research methodologies, taking advantage of the operation of Assistant Professor Emeritus John Rick’s major archaeological project in the World Heritage site of Chavín de Huántar.  For seven weeks from June - August 2019, students will participate in major excavations, with an emphasis on the original drainage canals, as well as excavating newly discovered underground spaces.  Researchers' efforts will split between investigation, in which we are pursuing intellectual goals for understanding the past of the site, and conservation, in which we are trying to improve the perspectives for this monumental site’s survival into the future. 

Familiarity with conversational Spanish is highly recommended for participation in this field school.

A day in the life at Chavín

Archaeology major Sophia Colello (2021) writes about her 2018 field school experience:

This past summer, I spent seven weeks excavating at Chavín de Huántar, a pre-Inca site in the Peruvian Andes. My time there was transformative, as it afforded me a chance to work with archaeological materials and analytical methods I had not previously been exposed to and to live in and engage with a part of the world that I had never experienced. I spent six days a week excavating in a trench that yielded two possible decapitations, a beautiful plaster wall, and an abundance of sherds, bones, and floor layers. Painstakingly excavating my first inhumation from the first dusty tooth to the last crumbling rib taught me to develop a degree of patience and physical resilience I didn't know was necessary. I also worked in the lab recording the dimensions and weights of shell finds and determining their species in preparation for a research project I have begun to better understand the function of shells at Chavín and their environmental and cultural origins along the Peruvian coast. I very much look forward to diving deeper into this project and expanding my knowledge of Chavín over the course of the coming year.

Contact: Professor John Rick


Learn more about Chavín de Huántar, Peru

Learn more about general field school opportunities with the Stanford Archaeology Center.

Applications for 2020 open on November 15 and close on January 31, 2020. Apply here!