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The Wari civilization flourished in the coastal and highland areas of ancient Peru between c. Based at their capital Huari, the Wari successfully exploited the diverse landscapes they controlled to construct an empire administered by provincial capitals connected by a large road network. Their methods of maintaining an empire and artistic style would have a significant influence on the later Inca civilization.
The Wari were contemporary with those other great Middle Horizon (c. 600 - 1000 CE) cultures centred at Tiwanaku and Pukara. The more militaristic Wari were also gifted agriculturalists and they constructed canals to irrigate terraced fields. The economic stability and prosperity this brought allowed the Wari to implement a combined strategy of military might, economic benefits, and distinct artistic imagery to forge an empire across ancient Peru. Their superior management of the land also helped them resist the 30-year drought period which during the end of the 6th century CE contributed to the decline of the neighbouring Nazca and Moche civilizations.
The Wari were undoubtedly influenced by contemporary cultures, for example, appropriating the Chavin Staff deity — a god closely associated with the sun, rain, and maize, all so vital to cultures dependent on agriculture and the whims of an unreliable climate. They transformed it into a ritual icon present on textiles and pottery, spreading their own branded iconography and leaving a lasting legacy in Andean art.
The Wari implemented a combined strategy of military might, economic benefits, and distinct artistic imagery to forge an empire across ancient Peru.
The capital at Huari (25 km north of modern Ayacucho) is located at an altitude of 2,800 m and is spread over 15 square kilometres. It was first settled around 250 CE and eventually had a population possibly as high as 70,000 at its peak. Huari shows typical features of Andean architecture: densely packed wall-enclosed rectangular structures which can be further divided into a maze of compartments. The city's walls are massive (up to 10 metres high and 4 metres thick) and built using largely unworked stones set with a mud mortar. Buildings had two or three stories, courtyards were lined with stone benches set in the walls, and drains were stone-lined. The floors and walls of buildings were generally covered with plaster and painted white.
There is little distinction in Wari architecture between public and private buildings and little evidence of town planning. A royal palace has, however, been identified in the northwest section of the city, its oldest area of habitation and called Vegachayoq Moqo. A now ruined temple was located in the Moraduchayuq compound in the southeast of the city. It was built in the 6th century CE and had subterranean parts with the whole structure once painted red. Like other buildings at the site it was deliberately destroyed and ritually buried. The city seems to have been abandoned c. 800 CE for reasons unknown.
Tombs have been excavated at Huari which contained fine examples of Wari textiles. Ceramics are also amongst finds at the site. A royal tomb was discovered in the Monjachayoq zone which consists of 25 chambers on two different levels, all lined with finely cut stone slabs. In addition, a shaft descends to a third level chamber which has the shape of a llama. Finally, a circle chamber was cut out at a fourth level down. The llama-shaped tomb, looted in antiquity, was the royal resting place and dates to 750-800 CE.
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Huari was once surrounded by irrigated fields and fresh water ran through the city via underground conduits. Further indicators of prosperity are the presence of areas dedicated to the production of specific goods such as ceramics and jewellery. Precious materials for these workshops and imported goods indicate trade with far-flung places: shells from the coast and Spondylus from Ecuador, for example. The presence of buildings used for storage at Huari and other Wari cities also indicates a centrally controlled trade network spread across ancient Peru.
Another important Wari centre was at Pikillacta, southeast of Huari which was founded c. 650 CE. Located at an altitude of 3250 m, the heart of this administrative and military settlement site was built in a rectangular form measuring 745 x 630 metres and is laid out in a precise geometrical pattern of squares. The interiors of individual compounds are, however, idiosyncratic in layout.
As at other Wari sites, access was strictly controlled via a single, winding entrance. Notable finds at Pikillacta include 40 miniature greenstone figures depicting elite citizens and small figurines (no larger than 5 cm) of transformational shamans, warriors, bound captives, and pumas in copper, gold, and semi-precious stone. The site was abandoned c. 850 - 900 CE and there is evidence of destruction by fire of some buildings and deliberately sealed doorways.
Other important Wari cities were Viracochapampa, Jincamocco, Conchopata, Marca Huamachuco, and Azangaro. There were also purely military sites such as the fort at Cero Baul, which bordered on Tiwanaku territory to the south. These sites were connected to water sources and each other by a system of roads.
Wari art is best evidenced in textile finds which often depict the Staff Deity, plants, the San Pedro cactus flower, pumas, condors, and especially llamas, illustrating the importance of these herd animals to the Wari. Textiles were buried with the dead and those tombs in the dry dessert have been well-preserved. Textiles were multi-coloured, although blue was particularly favoured, and designs were composed of predominantly rectilinear geometric forms, especially the stepped diamond motif. At the same time, despite seemingly regular geometric patterns, weavers often introduced a single random motif or colour change (typically using green or indigo) into their pieces. These could be signatures or an illustration that rules could always have exceptions.
Wari designs eventually became so abstract that figures were essentially unrecognisable, perhaps in a deliberate attempt by the elite to monopolize their interpretation. Abstract figures distorted almost beyond recognition may also be an attempt to represent the shamanic transformation and drug-induced trance consciousness which were part of Wari religious ceremonies.
Popular Wari pottery forms were the double-spouted vessels seen elsewhere in Andean cultures, large urns, beakers, bowls, and moulded effigy figures. Decorative designs were heavily influenced by those used in Wari textile production. The Staff Deity was an especially popular subject for beakers (kero) as were warriors with dart throwers, shields, and military tunics.
Precious metals were also a popular medium for elite goods. Notable finds from a royal tomb at Espiritu Pampa include a silver face mask and breast-plate, gold bracelets, and other jewellery in semi-precious stones such as greenstone and lapis lazuli. Human figures in typical Wari costume - sleeveless tunic and four-cornered hat - were also made in hammered precious metals.
The Wari Legacy
Although the exact causes of Wari decline are not known, theories range from over-extension of the empire to another period of extended drought in the 9th century CE. Whatever the reasons, the region returned to a situation of fragmented polities for several centuries.
The most lasting legacy of the Wari is their artistic style which not only influenced the contemporary Moche but also the later Lambayeque civilization, and later still, the Incas. A large number of the roads built by the Wari were also used by the Incas within their own extensive road system, as were a great number of Wari terraces for agriculture. The capital at Huari was looted in antiquity and again in the 16th century CE by the Spanish.
Re-discovered in the mid-20th century CE, the first excavations began in the 1940's and continue today, gradually revealing the wealth and power once enjoyed by one of the most important of all ancient Andean cultures.
Ancient Wari Civilization: Surprising Secrets Revealed in a Recent Discovery
Image credit: Monolito Wari – Ayacucho, Peru taken by Fer121 under Public Domain.
The constant search and discovery of archeologists are very important as they provide answers to the questions and curiosities that we have regarding ancient civilizations. Sadly, in many cases, finding artifacts that are intact is extremely difficult. The items are either buried way too far from where they were expected to be. If not, they might have been looted long before archeologists could come and analyze the artifacts. However, a recent discovery revealed a glimpse of an ancient civilization in Peru that dates as early as 700-1000 AD. The said discovery is the imperial tomb of the Wari. This ancient Wari civilization has not been well-documented due to limited artifacts discovered. Thus, this recent discovery is considered a treasure in understanding this seemingly lost part of history.
The Secret Discovery
The problem when archaeologists find something and announce it to the public is that villagers nearby come over to loot the findings. Therefore, the important artifacts are gone before they could be studied. However, when the team of Milosz Giersz, a University of Poland archaeologist, found the burial chamber in Peru, they decided not to reveal it to the public. Their team decided to collect the artifacts that they could find before making a public announcement. They painstakingly unearthed thousands of artifacts over the course of several months. They found gold, silver, and tools, and even mummified bodies. These items were said to be located in a burial chamber.
The Revelation in this Discovery
First of all, this discovery shed some light in regard to the Wari culture, which predates the well-documented Inca culture of Peru. It was revealed that during their time, the Waris were extremely powerful. They had magnificent infrastructure that depicted their power. The bodies of three entombed queens were adorned with jewelry, signifying that they were powerful female leaders. The archeologists also found bodies buried with the queens depicting that human sacrifice was part of their culture. The presence of insects on the bodies of the queens indicated that some other rituals were performed, most likely some form of royal ancestral worship, long after they have passed away.
A Change of Perspective
The discovery about female leaders also changed the perception of how women were treated in the past. It is believed that throughout history, men were dominant. In the olden times, a patriarchal society was evident anywhere in the world. However, with how these female leaders were worshipped and adored, it showed that in some cultures, other beliefs were followed.
Just the Beginning
The team that led this fantastic discovery believes that it is just the beginning of everything. They still have 8 to 10 more years to fully uncover the secrets of the Wari culture. In fact, they believe that if more secrets of this culture will be revealed, the Wari leaders can even be compared to Alexander the Great in terms of power and influence.
The Wari a Civilization before the Incas & Ruins of Pikillaqta
On your custom trip to Peru, you’ll certainly see and hear much about the magnificence of the Inca legacy.
In the approximate one hundred years before the Spanish arrived, the Incas united multiple tribes into one empire. Their territory covered a vast expanse of land over Ecuador, Peru, northern Chile, the Argentinian highlands, Bolivia, and the southern region of Colombia, an area of over 3,400 miles! They gained and retained dominion over a vastly diverse population for over a century, and their spectacular rise was followed by an equally spectacular fall once the Spanish conquistadors arrived and laid claim to their kingdom and resources. Forty thousand Inca leaders dominated this enormous area with a population of over ten million people and over thirty different languages were spoken in addition to the Inca language, Runasimi, or Quechua.
But what of the people the Inca conquered? Peru was home to many tribes, each with its own language, traditions, religious beliefs, and styles of art. On your tailor-made Peru vacation, you’ll have the chance to look back even further than the Inca Empire, and explore ruins and artifacts that have been attributed to equally intriguing, yet even more ancient Andean cultures.
One such people were the Wari, who left behind the ruins of Pikillaqta, located on the outskirts of Cusco in Quispicanchi Province. The term Pikillaqta is interpreted as “Place of the Fleas.” The Wari people that built it thrived from 550 to 1100 CE and inhabited a large area that included territory in the south central Andes highlands and large areas of Peru’s coastline. Their capital was located just north of Ayacucho, some 425 miles west of Cusco, and evidence of their influence has been found at other sites near Lima, including the oracle center of Pachacamac, and as far up the northern coast as Chiclayo.
It is thought that the Wari mainly used the Pikillaqta site for rituals and religious ceremonies. The site has only been studied intensively in recent decades and has taught us much about the people who built it. They were cultivators of maize and beans, with maize playing a large role in both their daily and ceremonial life. Evidence of the consumption of chicha, a fermented maize beer, demonstrates the long history of this drink throughout the centuries: it is still very much a part of life in Peru’s rural communities.
Pikillaqta boasts an elaborate system of irrigation canals, terracing, water tunnels, and diversions, all designed to move water efficiently through various parts of the site and out into the fields to the crops. In fact, archaeologists believe the Wari were the innovators of agricultural terracing, and that its prominent use throughout the Andes began with their influence.
Pikillaqta also has a large central patio that is thought to have been a place for community gatherings and festivals. Bones found were those of guinea pigs and the camelid species alpacas and llamas: both remain important in the lives of rural Peruvians today.
The Wari were known for their elaborate woven textiles their ability to create complex designs using the technique of tie dying, before hippies ever came on the scene, is unparalleled. Some of their textiles had a high thread count of 200 per inch, which attests to the unusually fine quality of their work.
During your custom trip to Peru, we will be delighted to arrange for you to join us on a journey to explore the ruins of Pikillaqta and get a feel for the lives of this ancient pre-Inca people.
Evidence of Advanced ancient technology? The Ancient Wari ruins
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Precision drill holes? Image Credit: hiddenincatours.com
Located near Quinua, in the Ayacucho region of Peru, at an altitude of nearly 3km above sea-level we find the ancient Wari ruins, the capital of the Wari (Huari) empire which ruled the region sometime between 500 to 1000 AD.
The numerous slabs found at the Wari capital city were made of hard volcanic stone, and have extremely curious characteristics: precision cuts, nearly perfect lines, and curious drill holes that according to many are evidence of a lost ancient technology.
The Huari were a Middle Horizon civilization which spread across the south-central region of the Andes and coastal area of modern-day Peru.
The ancient Wari –also known as Huari— was an Andean civilization that flourished in the center of the Andes from about AD 500 to 1000.
The greatest and most prominent city associated with this culture is Wari, located about 15 Kilometers northwest of the present city of Ayacucho.
This city was the center of an empire that covered the greater part of the mountain range and the coast of the present Peru. The Wari Empire established distinctive architectural centers in many of its provinces, such as Cajamarquilla or Piquillacta.
According to experts, the Wari civilizations is considered –together with the Inca Empire— as one of the greatest ‘imperial cultures’ that appeared in the southern hemisphere.
Their capital city –in ruins today— is evidence of a highly organized city with residential, administrative, and religious areas.
Curiously, just as many other sites in the Area, the Wari ruins have numerous mind-boggling slabs which according to many authors are evidence of a sophisticated civilization that inhabited the region. But were these ruins left behind by the Wari? Or is there a possibility that the ruins predate this Bronze Age civilization?
Wari Monoliths. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
If the massive slabs, andesite stones with curious precision cuts, incredible grooves and other interesting characteristics were manufactured by the ancient Wari, then the obvious question we need to ask here is how did they do it?
What kind of technology allowed them to work with some of the hardest materials on Earth, thousands of years ago?
The stonework found at the Wari ruins curiously resembles other ancient sites found in the Americas. Similar stonework can be found at Puma Punku, Ollantaytambo, Tiahuanaco and even Ancient Egypt. How is it possible that these sites –located thousands of kilometers from each other in some cases— shows eerily similar grooves, precision cuts, and slabs?
As noted by author and researcher Brien Foerster, some of the stones found at the Wari ruins are “intact examples of possibly hundreds of extremely intricately shaped conduits.”
Furthermore, “local officials have NO comment when questioned about the manufacturing process of these slabs, how they were made, what they were made for, or who created them, whether it was the Bronze Age War civilization or another culture that perhaps predates the Wari.
Image Credit: hiddenincatours.com
Wari Culture: Feathers, Color And History
New York and Peru. Color and tradition. Modernity and antiquity. The exhibition Feathered Walls: Hangings from Ancient Peru, an installation of twelve panels from the ancient Wari culture is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until March 2, 2014. The wall hangings were constructed with iridescent blue and yellow macaw feathers, arranged in geometric designs. The Wari panels are among the most luxurious and unique works created by Peruvian artists before the Spanish conquest.
The history of these artistic treasures dates back to the period between the 7th and 10th centuries, when members of the extinct Wari culture used feathers for decoration and as a symbol of nobility and power. They remained unseen, like a hidden treasure, until some peasants found them in 1943. The 96 panels miraculously survived intact inside ceramic pots buried by the Wari in a sacred place near the town of La Victoria, where the valleys of Ocoña and Churunga converge, in southern Peru.
The beauty of the sleek minimalist design of these art pieces impacted the sensitivity of 20th century artists such as Max Ernst and his wife Dorothea Tanning, who purchased some of the pieces that today dress the walls of the Met.
The Wari civilization is considered one of the first pre-Colombian empires. It is believed that the much larger Inca Empire absorbed the Wari people. “According to the documentation collected, both the Wari culture and, later, the Inca civilization used these works for individual sacrifices,” says Heidi King, a research associate at the Met’s department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. “In both cultures, feathers are considered a sign of luxury.”
The Wari panels are made using a thorough and detailed technique: the feathers are individually knotted on fine cotton fabric, with perfect divisions between blue and yellow squares. The Wari artists used to paste feathers on wood and metal, “but on fabric they applied an even more complicated technique, which consists of a network of knots that keep the feathers fixed on the cloth in many superposed layers,” said King.
These pieces, on loan at the museum, are one of the most atypical and luxurious expressions of art in Peru before the arrival of Spanish colonizers in 1532. ■
Top review from the United States
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Thanks go to Mary Glowacki and Gordon McEwan for this informative and clearly written book on the Wari. For the first time, I now have an understanding of what happened in the Cuzco valley before the Inca empire blossomed. This valuable book is greatly appreciated. It will provide me with many enjoyable reading opportunities as I work to find out how the Inca became such fine engineers all those years ago.
The authors describe Chokepukio, which is only a stone’s throw from Pikillacta. This site was built during the collapse of the Wari empire and during the decline of Pikillacta, and it therefore fills an important role in our understanding of what was going on in the Cuzco area before the Inca people rose to prominence.
I was happy to read Melissa Chatfield’s chapter on the post-Wari pottery sequence. Her scholarly description of the Rowe pottery sequence, the seriation of stylistic phases in the Late Intermediate Period and the revision to the stylized sequence are illuminating. I now have a new mental picture of what K’illke pottery is.
Glowacki and McEwan do a nice job of describing the rise of Pikillacta. They explain that even though the site was not completed, it was abandoned according to a plan that involved the sealing of doorways and burning.
I looked for a chapter on Tipón, but Tipón was not even mentioned. I would have liked to learn more about who built the massive outer wall around Tipón prior to the site’s conversion into an estate for Inca nobility.
The two editors provide a conclusion for the book that pulls together answers to many questions that exist about the lower Cuzco valley and how it was influenced by the Wari.
Early on, the Wari expanded their territory to include the ancient oracle center of Pachacamac, though it seems to have remained largely autonomous. Later the Wari became dominant in much of the territory of the earlier Moche and later Chimu cultures. The reason for this expansion has been debated it is believed to have been driven by religious conversion, military conquest, or the spread of agricultural knowledge (specifically terrace agriculture).
As a result of centuries of drought, the Wari culture began to deteriorate around 800 A.D. Archeologists have determined that the city of Wari was dramatically depopulated by 1000 A.D., although it continued to be occupied by a small number of descendant groups. Buildings in Wari and in other government centers had doorways that were deliberately blocked up, as if the Wari intended to return, someday when the rains returned.  But by the time this happened, the Wari had faded from history. In the meantime, the dwindling residents of the Wari cities ceased all major construction. Archaeological evidence shows significant levels of inter-personal violence, suggesting that warfare and raiding increased amongst rival groups upon the collapse of the Wari state structure.  With the collapse of the Wari, the Late Intermediate Period is said to begin.
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The Wari were a Middle Horizon civilization that flourished in the south-central Andes and coastal area of modern-day Peru, from about 500 to 1000 AD. Wari, as the former capital city was called, is located 11 km (6.8 mi) north-east of the modern city of Ayacucho, Peru. This city was the center of a civilization that covered much of the highlands and coast of modern Peru. The best-preserved remnants, beside the Wari Ruins, are the recently discovered Northern Wari ruins near the city of Chiclayo, and Cerro Baul in Moquegua. Also well-known are the Wari ruins of Pikillaqta ("Flea Town"), a short distance south-east of Cuzco en route to Lake Titicaca. However, there is still a debate whether the Wari dominated the Central Coast or the polities on the Central Coast were commercial states capable of interacting with the Wari people without being politically dominated by them. Early on, the Wari expanded their territory to include the ancient oracle center of Pachacamac, though it seems to have remained largely autonomous. Later, the Wari became dominant in much of the territory of the earlier Moche and later Chimu cultures. The reason for this expansion has been debated it is believed to have been driven by religious conversion, military conquest, or the spread of agricultural knowledge (specifically terrace agriculture). As a result of centuries of drought, the Wari culture began to deteriorate around 800 AD. Archeologists have determined that the city of Wari was dramatically depopulated by 1000 AD, although it continued to be occupied by a small number of descendant groups. Buildings in Wari and in other government centers had doorways that were deliberately blocked up, as if the Wari intended to return, someday when the rains returned. By the time this happened, though, the Wari had faded from history. In the meantime, the dwindling residents of the Wari cities ceased all major construction. Archaeological evidence shows significant levels of interpersonal violence, suggesting that warfare and raiding increased amongst rival groups upon the collapse of the Wari state structure. With the collapse of the Wari, the Late Intermediate Period is said to begin.
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Archaeology’s Incredible Discoveries Of Ancient Civilizations
In ancient history, there is a whole world waiting to be discovered. In architectural digs, we stumble across some of the most precious items in time, unwittingly opening the doors onto a lost aspect of ancient civilization. These historical facts are some of the most precious to ever have been uncovered and by looking at them even more closely, we can begin to understand that little bit more about the rich cultures that lie in wait.
After discovering numerous items in important Minoan digs, archaeologist Barry Molloy came to a very important discovery. The material remains in question depicted scenes of war and violence unlike any ever seen, leading Molloy to believe that war was more than just a way of settling disputes. Due to the prevalence of the pieces, it seemed as if war existed as an important social construct for the Minoans. Primary expressions of male identity were tied up in battles and weapons played a huge symbolic role in the culture. This insight has educated many archaeological digs, helping professionals understand more about the lost civilization.
Ancient home to one of the most powerful civilizations in history, Easter Island off the coast of Chile is still brimming with mystery. Initially, archaeologists believed that stacks of unearthed flint pieces pointed to the fact that the island’s population disappeared as a result of war. However, new evidence on the objects has uncovered a very different truth. In depth analysis has revealed that the items weren’t used in warfare at all, and could have instead helped with cultural activities. The collapse of Easter Island, then, is just as much of a mystery as it always was, baffling professionals the world over.
The Wari were an ancient civilization that predated the Incas. Living in the Andes, the civilization were at the top of their game for a few hundred years before mysteriously coming to an end. While reasons as to why they disappeared have not been found, a number of details about the way they lived has come to light. Writings found from the Wari have revealed that the culture’s elite women were responsible for brewing the local beer stores. Made from peppertree berries and corn, the drink was called chicha, prepared in huge quantities.
While a number of civilizations have mysteriously disappeared from the face of the planet, others met their end in very familiar ways. Take the Nazca civilization. An ancient and advanced culture in Peru, the Nazca mysteriously fell from grace and for years, professionals couldn’t pin down the point of their collapse. Thanks to new findings, however, researchers believe they might have found the answer. The ancient Nazca cut down huge stretches of forest in order to make way for crops. The mass deforestation, however, caused huge damage to the environment, increasing flooding and damaging the irrigation systems. It is likely due to this that the civilization collapsed, leaving little behind in its wake.
Wa Na Wari means “Our Home” in Kalabari, the language of the Ijo in Nigeria. This home for Black arts opened its doors in 2019. The home belonged to co-founder Inye Wokoma’s grandparents and now operates as a cultural space for Black artists, musicians, and writers. Programs range from art exhibitions to intimate concerts to community meals to writing workshops. Wa Na Wari fulfills a twofold mission of serving as a model for keeping property ownership within Seattle’s historically Black community, and holding space for Black history and culture. Wa Na Wari also houses the oral history archive of Shelf Life Stories, a project dedicated to preserving the stories of current and former Central District residents.
From Wa Na Wari, continue down 24th Avenue to E Cherry Street. Along the way, note of the Craftsman homes, many of which date to the 1890s or early 1900s. Turn right on E Cherry and then left back onto 23rd Avenue. Proceed south on 23rd Avenue.