This work depicts a seated jaguar with realistic features and is associated with perhaps the most important ritual performed at the site of Chavín de Huantar in what is today central Peru. This ritual attracted pilgrims from across the Andes. This particular vessel is further noteworthy for its distinct “stirrup” features, which first appeared in Ecuador.
Chavín had easy access to the coasts, central highlands, and Amazon, allowing for a great deal of intercultural exchange. Jaguars, largely from the Amazon lowlands, along with pumas, lived throughout the Andes mountains and were believed to represent supernatural influences. Probably the most important structures at Chavín de Huantar, for example, redirected a stream through an underground labyrinth that re-created the roaring sound of a jaguar for pilgrims. They were under the influence of powerful hallucinogens as they made their way through the ceremonial center of Chavín de Huantar.