Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Earliest Americans—Wari

Left: The Wari Culture was to the north and the Tiwanaku Culture was to the south, though many archaeologists believe the Tiwanaku were much earlier than the Wari; Right: The extensive coverage of the Wari Culture 
     The Wari Empire was a political formation that emerged around 350 A.D. in the central highlands of Peru and lasted to about 1100 A.D. It began in the Ayacucho (Huamanga) Valley, about halfway between Lima and Cuzco—a difficult stretch of the mountain route from the coast to the highlands that moves through four narrow passes over 13,000 feet, and three times dropping below 6200 feet, through mosquito (zancudos) infested lowlands and freezing cold nights high on the golden puna.
The Ayacucho Valley, about 200 miles inland from Pisco on the Pacific coast
the original Wari city, 15 miles from Huamanga, called Huari, located at 9000 feet and covering some 9 square miles, where the people grew corn and potato and raised llama and alpaca, and made figurines, ceramic vessels, textiles and metal objects they traded far and wide. The political structure of the Wari state included the ruling elite, minor officials and artisans, with the central parts of the cities having major religious complexes with plazas. These center areas were surrounding by residential blocks in walled compounds, separated by streets.
    It is claimed that each of the Wari administrative centers controlled vast resources over local leaders; although the power of the Wari over its "colonies" is a bit in doubt. The artifacts of the Wari are spread across Peru; but the exact relationship between the center Wari city and its outlying "colonies" is currently unclear. The structures were distinctive; typically large rectangular enclosures, laid out in a strict grid pattern of squares or patios. The large buildings were administrative centers and elite residences, with numerous uniformly decorated and shaped room cells.
The ruins of Huari where little actual archaeological work has been done to-date
    It is claimed to have overlapped the Tiwanaku culture and at one time was thought to have been derived from it. In 2008, archaeologists found a prehistoric city far to the north, called Cerro Patapo near the modern coastal city of Chiclayo—the area of the earlier Moche culture, which now leads archaeologists to consider that the Wari and Moche were somehow connected. It would probably have been easier to make such connections among different Andean cultures had archaeologists not been so convinced they were separate to begin with. The more that is uncovered, and archaeologists come to understand the early Peruvian peoples, the more they seem connected and the more they mirror the Book of Mormon peoples.
Top: Blue Dot is the location of Cerro Patapo; far to the left is the coastal city of Chiclayo, which earlier had been the dominion of the Moche culture; Bottom: Some of the ruins of the ancient city
    The find was the first to show an extensive settlement related to the Wari culture that far north and demonstrate that they had a long span of influence. These ruins are primarily of the Wari (Huari), which flourished in the area along the coast and reaching to the highlands. The ruins both present the first evidence of Wari influence found in Northern Peru and by their quality and extent, show this was an important site. Located 14 miles from Chiclayo, the ruins stretch over an area of 3 miles.
The recently discovered city of Cerro Patapo hanging on a Cliffside. Archaeologists now believe there is a connection between the Moche of that area and the Wari, now discovered to have also been in this northern area
    Another Wari site, this one far to the south, on a low ridge twelve miles east and 20 miles south of Cusco along the road to Puno and Lake Titicaca, is the area of Pikillaqta (“flea place,” or “City of Fleas”). First discovered in the Lucre Basin in 1927, it was not fully excavated until 1978-1990 by Gordon McEwan. One of the most interesting aspects of Pikillaqta (and there are numerous) is the hydraulic works that connect the water resources of the site to terraces and cultivable fields in the Lucre Basin, including canals, reservoirs, causeways, and aqueducts. This complex set of features allowed intensive agriculture of maize, potatoes and other crops.
Covering an area of 8453 acres, Pikillaqta was one of the most spectacular regional centers of the Wari culture. This name was given it by the Spanish during the colonial period, the original name is unknown. The complex of Piquillacta is composed by more than 700 structures: 200 Kanchas (departments), 504 qolqas (storages) and different buildings that should have sheltered a population of about ten thousand people.
     The city was displayed in a harmonious and symmetric way, in blocks with straight streets that embraced many sectors such as the administrative, ceremonial, urban, defensive and a road system. Its buildings had 2 or 3 floors, each 40 feet high. The walls were made with mud and stones, wide at the bottom but thin at the upper part. At the beginning of the nineties, these walls were covered with 3 ½-inches of mud, then covered with plaster. The floors were also made with a kind of thick plaster showing the appearance of a white city.

While most ancient Andean cultures have become more and more known, the civilization of Wari remains obscure, even though they were not a minor, provincial group, but a large, thriving power that dominated their era, exerting influence over a vast area that exceeded that of the more celebrated Classic Maya to the north in Central America. Multiple factors contribute to the Wari’s absence from the public imagination; not least among them is the dearth of those monumental arts that have traditionally functioned as a hallmark of civilization. Even as we move beyond facile ideas of cultural hierarchy, the biases of earlier eras remain embedded in the archaeological discipline. The Wari had little use for large stone statues representing gods and rulers, and although their structures are finely engineered, they do not display the pristine masonry that embellishes so much Pre-Columbian architecture.
    Instead, Wari artists focused their labors on works in mediums often associated with craft, especially textiles and ceramics. It would be a mistake, however, to equate the lack of monumental stonework with a lack of cultural sophistication, as Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, the stunning catalogue to the exhibition organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, forcefully demonstrates.
    The catalogue provides a valuable overview of the skill and inventiveness of Wari artists, combining over two hundred illustrations with fifteen essays by distinguished international scholars from the fields of archaeology and art history that examine diverse aspects of Wari art and culture.
    At present, the consensus is coalescing on defining Wari as a true empire, the first expansionist state of the ancient Andes. Yet, when discussing Wari imperialism, it is important to recognize that they employed a number of strategies that go beyond definitions of imperialism that are rooted in militarism and conquest. In some cases they asserted territorial and administrative control, as evidenced by Wari outposts in locations far from their capital; in others they relied on soft power techniques, such as diplomacy and cultural influence. The latter appears to have been the strategy employed in their dealings with the Moche of Peru’s north coast, who they no doubt influenced since their ceramics appear alongside Moche fineline painted vessels in Late Moche-period elite burials, a marker of social prestige.
It is an accepted fact that textiles were perhaps the most important art form in the ancient Andes (as it was among the Nephites), and the Wari were masters of the medium, as attested by the diversity of technique, the quality, and the quantity of cloth that has survived. Chapters address different facets of textiles and textile production, including tapestry tunics, feather work, and tie-dyed garments. Wari textile designs range from abstract geometries to figural representations, although these were often highly distorted and abstracted to the point that, at first glance, they could be mistaken for works of mid-twentieth-century modernism.
    Polychrome ceramics of the Wari style and Wari art have been found from the Lake Titicaca area all the way north to almost Ecuador, and from the highlands of the east all the way to the coast during this period, yet archaeology is silent about the meaning of such finds (certainly it would reflect the Nephite use of textiles as shown throughout the Book of Mormon and also shows a widespread coverage of the Nephite nation)
    While anthropologists consider the manufacture of ceramics as the basis of much of their dating, contact, grouping and classification of cultural contact, for some reason they do not consider the proliferation of Wari style ceramics throughout the Andes as evidence of direct control or even contact. Still, the fact that such ceramics and art are found in these numerous so-called separate cultures, one has to wonder why this has not led the scientists to place the meaning of involvement of these cultures into closer arrangement.


  1. "The Wari Empire was a political formation that emerged around 350 A.D. in the central highlands of Peru and lasted to about 1100 A.D. " If this is true, then the Wari would be a Lamanite culture without any Nephites in it. Right?

  2. We need to keep in mind that after this 200 year "golden period," the division in the people was also along religious lines, i.e., those who were righteous and those who were not--that is, those who were members of the Church and those who were not. From this it sounds like "Lamanites" were not just by blood, but by what archaeologists call "political" divisions and Mormon refers to as religious factors. Note 4 Nephi 1:28-43, 45-46, though Mormon (1:8) refers to this division from his point onward by normal Nephite-Lamanite (etc) labels.