Stela Of Raimondi: Characteristics And Symbolism

The Raimondi’s steleIt is a monolith that was made by the Chavín culture , a prehistoric civilization that developed between 1500 BC and 300 BC in the Peruvian Andes. It is believed that the Raimondi stele was considered a sacred object for this town.It is also a very valuable object for modern scholars, as it is an important example of that art.

The Chavín culture owes its name to the archaeological site of Chavín de Huántar. This is located in Huari, a province in the Peruvian department of Ancash. The site is believed to have served as a ceremonial and religious place for the Andean world.

This is evidenced in the temples that were discovered in Chavín de Huántar, as well as in the artifacts that were discovered there. Indeed, one of the objects that testifies to the religious role of Chavín de Huántar is the Raimondi stele.

On the other hand, this monolith owes its name to Antonio Raimondi, who, helped by a peasant, discovered this relic. This Italian naturalist and geographer was one of the great promoters of the development of natural sciences in the Peruvian territory. He arrived in Peru in 1850, and for nineteen years he systematically observed rocks, plants, animals, and climatic records.

Main characteristics of the Raimondi stele

The Raimondi stele represents a cult figure called God of Staves. This representation appears in various versions from Colombia to northern Bolivia, but it always has a staff. On few occasions, however, the representations have the degree of elaboration found in Chavín.

In this sense, Raimondi’s stele directs its gaze upward, frowns and uncovers its fangs. It also has an elaborate feathered headdress that dominates the upper third of the monolith. Flipping the image shows that the headdress is composed of a series of faces without jaws. Each of these emerge from the mouth of the face above.

On the other hand, in this figure there are many serpents that extend from the belt of the deity. These make up parts of the staff. In addition, they serve as whiskers and hair of the deity and the creatures of the headdress. In turn, the snakes form a braid at the end of the composition. In general, it is an anthropomorphic being with feline features. Their arms are extended, and their hands are claws with which they hold the staffs.

Regarding its dimensions, it measures 1.98 cm high, 74 cm wide and 17 cm thick. This stone sculpture is a rectangular-shaped granite slab. Compared to previous reliefs, it is more elaborate and complex. The first reliefs are characterized by being simple frontal or profile silhouettes of men, jaguars and condors with modest geometric decorations.

The Raimondi stela illustrates the Andean artistic tendency towards multiplicity and dual readings. In reverse, the face of the god becomes not one, but two faces. The ability of the gods to transform themselves before the eyes of the beholder is a central aspect of the Andean religion.


In 1860, Antonio Raimondi was investigating the archaeological site that is now known as Chavín de Huantar. There he was approached by a peasant named Timoteo Espinoza, a native of the place.

This farmer spoke the Quechua language . By then, the Italian explorer was fluent in it, so he had no trouble understanding it. Espinoza knew that Raimondi was on the lookout for ancient objects, and took him home to see a large stone slab used as a dining table.

In this way, almost by chance, one of the most important discoveries in the history of archeology occurs. It was a very old stele, fine and intricately carved. Timoteo Espinoza had discovered it twenty years ago when he was removing the earth in a field very close to the Temple of Chavín de Huántar.

Despite its obvious importance, this relic was forgotten for thirteen years. In 1873, the Italian took it to Lima for study and conservation. However, in 1881, this monolith was hit by Chilean soldiers and fell to the ground.

The stone was still wrapped in a heavy blanket, but it broke into two pieces. This happened during the War of the Pacific , when Chilean soldiers looted the Museum of History.

After Raimondi’s death in 1890, this stone sculpture was placed in safekeeping. Some options were handled: sell it abroad or transfer it to other national museums. In 1940, during an earthquake, he fell down the stairs of the Museum of Archeology and some parts of the frame broke. After its repair, it was exhibited in the Museum of Anthropology and Archeology in Lima.

Today, the National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology and History of Peru is in charge of its conservation.


Some experts consider the Raimondi stele to represent the culminating expression of duality. This monument allows two radically opposite views if it is placed upside down. The terrestrial and celestial deities appear depending on the position.

On the one hand, the god seems apprehensively looking up. The figure shows two vertical poles. These include vegetation, therefore it is believed to be strongly associated with agriculture and fertility.

Now if it is reversed, it is seen that the god is looking lustfully. The staves that fall from the skies are also observed. These could represent the deity of lightning.

In this case, the imposing headdress and staves are flooded with animal faces as if it were home to a strange group of supernatural elements. Among others, two jaguar heads can be seen just above the elbows of the deity.


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