The Andean Spiral

I spent the weekend in dual celebration of my and my friend’s birthdays.  After a weekend full of fun and festivity, I woke up this morning contemplating the Andean Spiral.  This week’s topic on all things Peru is inspired by this contemplation.

Spirals are found in Ancient iconography of many cultures.  The spiral has been found carved into cave dwellings, rocks and tombs all over the world and can be dated as far back as 24,000 year ago.  Examples exist in Greek and Celtic art, the Nazca earthworks in Peru, Native American petroglyphs, Arabic architecture, Japanese rock gardens, Hindu spiritual texts, Australian aborigine paintings, and African art.

To the Andean people, both ancient and modern the spiral is an important symbol.  Our guide in Cusco, Al, explained to me that to Peruvians the spiral represents equilibrium.  The spiral is an ancient a symbol of unity, wholeness and completion.  It represents the never-ending cycle of life and a path to the Creator.  As I traveled through Peru, I noticed that the spiral is often combined with the Andean Cross in iconographic representation

Peruvian Silver Chakana Spiral Pendant.  Shamans Market.


Chumbivilcas Textiles. Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco.

The spiral symbol has been adopted by modern Peruvians as pervasive symbol used to promote pride in their ethnic heritage.  Peruvians wear this symbol proudly, most often on a piece of jewelry, such as a silver necklace.  The symbol is also present as a design in many woven articles, such as blankets and shawls.  The spiral has also be adopted as a symbol of their tourist industry.  It is incorporated into the “P” in Peru on their tourism logo.

The Andean Spiral is an interesting symbol that simultaneously represents ancient Andean culture as well as modern Peruvian culture.  The spiral has also become representative of Peruvian tourism.  Peru is heavily dependent upon tourism to generate income for its residents.  To modern Peruvians the spiral is symbolic of their ethnic identity – who they are past, present,and future.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michele Swigart Uhrich
    Oct 13, 2013 @ 00:42:52

    Today I purchased a beautiful Peruvian shell pendant. It is round and has the spiral covering its face and is divided into four parts (each part a different color). The short silver chain is made of tiny beads (“chicita” I think they are called…).

    I am intrigued! The pendant glows with rich color and ancient culture! It is so carefully and beautifully made — as is the beaded chain.

    I am so happy to have found this web site. Perhaps I will be able to figure out how to send a photo. I would love to learn as much as I can about my lovely and mysterious new possessions.

    Thank you.
    Michele Swigart Uhrich.



  2. markov1089
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 11:12:44

    Does it matter which way the spiral goes? In the Peruvian tourism logo, the spiral goes clockwise as we approach the center. But in the silver Chakana spiral pendant, it goes in a counterclockwise direction (“widdershins”). Maybe it does not matter?


    • Dr. Cynthia Bellacero
      Jan 14, 2014 @ 10:26:58

      Thanks for visiting my blog. Truthfully I never noticed that there was a difference. Great observation! Let me ask one of my friends in Peru or Ecuador and see if we can find the answer. If you find it before I do, please let me know.


    • Dr. Cynthia Bellacero
      Jan 14, 2014 @ 12:39:23

      Hi again! I have reached out to my Ecuadorian Friends about your question. the Peruvian logo comes from a designer in actual times and it is more related to the design and letter “P” of Peru rather than any special cosmogonic or astronomical understanding. They do not think there is a connection or special meaning between both designs. The chakana will have the clockwise rotation because they are in the southern hemisphere. The Andean civilization knew about it in order to develop irrigation and pipeline systems along the Empire.

      So my guess is that the proper way to form the Andean spiral is in the clockwise rotation and that the counterclockwise rotation of the tourism symbol is incorrect in a spiritual manner but stylistically necessary to form the P.


  3. Christian von Rosenvinge
    Nov 18, 2016 @ 13:03:22

    Regarding the proper way to form the Andean spiral, I notice that repetition of motifs is common in Andean art and that often the repetitions mirror one another (that is to say, the image is flipped along the vertical or horizontal axis). As an example, in the textile to the left of the Peru tourism logo, the border of the diamonds consists of multiple spirals. The spirals of any two neighboring sides rotate in opposite directions. Of course, when drawn in isolation, the spirals may consistently rotate clockwise, as you suggest.


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Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

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