Uluru, also called Ayers Rock, the iconic giant sandstone mound in Australia that rises abruptly out of an expanse of flat desert, has always intrigued me. For thousands of years the indigenous Australians have considered Uluru a sacred site, and it is the focus of numerous myths and legends. I understand that mythic attraction – and the geologic history is just as captivating.
Chavín de Huántar, high in the Andes Mountains of northern Peru, was the seat of an important religious power and cult that flourished for hundreds of years, beginning about 3,000 years ago. Shamanic beliefs and practices apparently played a central role in this religion, with some individuals using hallucinogenic drugs to reach altered states of consciousness for interactions with the spirit world. Exotic and somewhat sinister art forms, recognized as an essential part of the religion, depict these transformations.
Machu Picchu, the city built by the Incas on a steep mountain ridge, is a tremendous engineering achievement – and only one of many impressive constructions by the ancient Andeans. Among these is Chavín de Huántar in northern Peru, with a sprawling temple complex that was once the center of a powerful cult and an important pilgrimage site.