Wednesday, June 5, 2019

In Ancient Peru the Burial of Wari Nobles

Long before the Inca, long before the building of Machu Picchu, at a time when Paris had but 25,000 residents, and London about 30,000, and at a time when the 100,000-square foot pyramid at Pachacamac, along the central coast of Peru, had already been standing for hundreds of years, and the Wari Capital of Huari, along the northern coast, had a population of 40,000 residents.
Newly discovered El Castillo de Huarmey along the northern coast of Peru

At this time, the Norte Chico civilization, the oldest in the Americas with over 30 separate settlement areas with pyramids numbering near 50, had already been well established along the Peruvian coast for more than a thousand years. The Chavin and Moche, before them, and the Wari had carved an empire from the Peruvian central coast that stretched inland fifty miles.
    Within Huari, the site of El Castillo de Huarmey (Castle on the River Huarmey), sitting along a hillside about 186 miles north of Lima, is a large Wari temple complex that once dominated the entire region. At 131 feet above sea level, and 66-feet long, 197-feet wide, and 66-feet high, the site is situated to the north of, and overlooking, the Huarmay River. This river runs through the large level valley and past the village of Huarmey, was a site that had been looted for centuries by grave robbers and artifact hunters; however, this one royal tomb had lain untouched since the bodies were laid to rest in the chamber more than a thousand years ago—a rarity for archaeologist to find burials that have not been ravaged by grave robbers.
    The undisturbed pyramid mausoleum was discovered by Milosz Giersz of Poland’s University of Warsaw and Peruvian archaeologist Roberto Pimental Nita. In January 2010, the team, funded by the National Geographic Society, located what appeared to be a subterranean tomb using aerial photographs and geophysical imaging tools on a ridge between two other pyramids. The ridge had long been a dumping site for rubble for tomb robbers, who had looted the area all around this site (Megan Gannonk News Editor, “Amazingly Untouched Royal Tomb Found in Peru,” Live Science, June 27, 2013).
    In September 2012, beneath the rubble, the team found a stone throne room. Below this was a chamber sealed by 30 tons of loose stone fill. The burial chamber of the royal tomb was discovered in early 2013, of the site. Buried beneath the rock within a mausoleum, the undisturbed Royal tomb contained a pantheon of 60 Wari nobles from the region which anciently had ceremoniously been placed, all sitting in rows and clothed in textiles.
Scientific 3-D reconstruction of a face of a Wari noblewoman who lived and died in Peru

Three side chambers contained three bodies of royal Wari queens whose bodies were accompanied by prized possessions, including gold weaving tools, jewelry, ear-ornaments called orejeras, rattles, looms, spindles, flasks, brilliantly painted ceramic vessels from all over the realm and a drinking cup carved from alabaster that depicts fights between the coastal warriors and foreign invaders.
    The site is located along the coast, about 50 miles south of Chimbote, and about the same distance north of Huacho. Due east of the site is the city of Huanuco. It sits within one of the longitudinal valleys of Ancash along the miles of sandy beaches and the blue waters of the Pacific, which combines the mountain characteristics of Callejón de Huaylas (Alley of Huaylas), with the wooded areas of the Alto Marañón. The territory of the coast, high plateaus and Andean punas the Ancash Region is flat, while the rest of the territory, in the Andes, is very rough. In the west, slopes with strong declivity form narrow canyons with abrupt and deserted sides.
    The rough territory of the region is crossed by two mountain ranges, the Cordillera Negra (Black Mountain) on the western side, which has peaks without glaciers, and the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain) on the eastern side, which has many peaks covered with snow and ice. Between these two mountain ranges, the Santa River flows through the so-called Callejón de Huaylas, which narrows to form the Cañón del Pato (Duck Canyon). Also along the Pacific slopes, the Santa River has shaped a wide valley in the punas which narrows into the Cordillera Negra, where the Cañón del Pato canyon was formed. Toward the south of this area lies the impressive Fortress of Paramonga, so called due to its staggered pyramid of four levels of enormous walled proportions constructed on a hill, which somewhat resembles a European medieval castle.
    The snow-covered peak of Huascarán, the highest peak of Peru and second of the Americas, reaches a height of over four miles at 22,205-feet and contrasts with the 20,548-feet deep trough of Chimbote found in the ocean west of Ancash. Offshore, the upwelling Humboldt or Peruvian current brings cold water and large number of fish to the surface, spawning large fishery endeavors. Much of this coast is a monotonous stretch of huge sand deserts, a common denominator in all Peruvian coastal regions because of the influence of the current along its shores. Numerous rivers flow from the mountain peaks, creating green valleys that are today cultivated mainly with sugarcane, rice and cotton.
    This entire coastal area was heavily populated in antiquity, with the Chavin originating and flourishing here in from 600 BC, and according to Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello,
"Chavín was the mother of all the cultures that later bloomed in the old Peru.” The name Chavín comes from the Quechua word Chawpin, which translates as center or headquarters
    In this area of gold, copper and zinc, rose the Wari Culture, with its magnificent buildings and many accomplishments. They ruled most of what is now Peru for several centuries, though they remain even today a culture shrouded in mystery. “We know little about this culture,” Giersz said, “and this discovery is the first one which brings us so much information about the funerary practices of the highest-ranking elite and the role of the woman in pre-Hispanic times.”
    In all, over the months of digging, the team unearthed 1,200 artifacts from the site, including semi-precious stone beads, carved wooden artifacts, bronze axes and jewelry made from gold and silver. The site and finds are expected to keep archaeologists busy for years to come. According to Giersz, "We are talking about the first unearthed royal imperial tomb."
Territories of the overlapping cultures that dominated the northern coastal regions of ancient Peru 

The richness of this mausoleum is a strong indication of the extent to which the Wari controlled this part of northern Peru. The Wari Empire, built on the heels of the Moche, which had built on the Chavín, who date back into the first millennium BC, had absolute control or dominated the entire northern area of Peru, from the coast to the highlands.
    It is known that the Wari state throughout Peru collapsed around 500 BC, in part because of a drought or, at least, with food production at an all-time low. At this time the Wari had gone from bad to worse, with head injuries increasing from 10% to 40% among adults and 44% in children. “The violence becomes much more deadly,” Tiffiny Tung, a bioarchaeologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville reported regarding her findings of the Wari sites. “These violent deaths aren't from random outbreaks of community brawls. This is much more systematic, lethal violence, but it's unclear at this time if it's from civil war or warfare with those perceived as outsiders."
    I was really impressed" by the work, said Maricarmen Vega, a bioarchaeologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, who studies violence in pre-Columbian societies along the Peruvian coast. Tung's analysis of skeletons from during and after the collapse, in which she tallied injuries and tracked changes in bone chemistry, "goes beyond the traditional studies of trauma."
    In other words, the study of mummies and the dead found in this Peruvian area showed that a very large number of ancient people of the Wari culture brought a sudden end to their civilization around 500 AD (Lizzie Wade, “The Wari’s grisly end—the fall of a South American empire,” Science, August 17, 2016).

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