The Wari represented a thriving pre-Incan civilization centered in the highlands and coastal areas of Peru centered in the capital of Huari. The diverse geography enabled the Wari to administer an empire by constructing an extensive network of roads and canals. Several significant geographic features of the region include mountains, rivers, and valleys, as the region is situated at extremely high altitudes. The Wari worked with the landscape by implementing irrigation systems and utilizing terracing to maximize agricultural output. However, consistent periods of extreme drought hindered settlement, leading to the decline of neighboring empires of the Nazca and Moche. The civilization ultimately played a major role in contributing to the artistic and economic development of the later Incan empire during the period of c. 450- c. 1000 CE.
The earliest and strongest archaeological evidence of the Wari presence emerged during an excavation at Cerro Patapo, located in the northern region of Peru, which uncovered ruins of a city with remains dating back to the assumed period of Wari occupation. At three miles in scope, archeologists at the site have found the remains of a young woman, bits of clothing, and ceramic pieces in 2008. In addition, a royal tomb was discovered dating back to the period 750-800 AD in the Manjachayoq zone, suggesting the presence of political structures within Wari society. According to Cesar Soriano, a leading archeologist of the excavation, “the discovery provides the first evidence of Wari culture, which expanded from the country's south, at the northern site.” The Wari culture ultimately reached a period of cultural apogee during the periods of 600 and 1000 AD, in which the civilization flourished economically and politically. In terms of collapse, a prolonged period of severe drought and political instability among the disparate groups composing the empire led to the civilization’s downfall around 1,000 AD, in which the Tiwanaku replaced the Wari. The relationship between production and politics for the Wari meant that a centrally controlled trade network allowed leaders to direct economic activity. For example, evidence of a large road system indicates how a centralized trading system was an integral part of the empire’s success.
Moreover, the Wari retained their political power through the disruption of local trade networks and the establishment of “long-distance trade,” which directly served the needs of the state elite. In addition, many artifacts, such as fine textiles and crafted polychrome ceramics, were excavated at the site, representing luxury goods that were a symbol of both wealth and power. Therefore, the artifacts suggest the presence of a sort of economic-political elite. In terms of distinctive visual styles, many of the artifacts excavated include textiles with images of significant figures, including the “Staff Deity, plants, the San Pedro cactus flower, pumas, condors, and especially llamas.” Additionally, textiles played an essential role in constructing burials and can be identified by their rectilinear geometric forms. These excavations, as a whole, suggest that the Wari civilization had some sense of hierarchical division as the discovery of monumental structures thought to be administrative centers emerged.
Furthermore, the depiction of religious imagery, such as the Staff God on textiles and the discovery of a royal palace in Wegachayoq Moqo, suggest how a hierarchical structure with religious elements characterized Wari culture. The ruins of a temple in Moraduchayuq and pottery works depicting the Staff God also demonstrate the importance of religion for the Wari people. The religious practices of the Wari are thought to be local and regional because of the abundance of imagery depicting the Staff God found in archeological excavations. Many of the textiles, works of pottery, small figurines, and engraved stones that were excavated have been believed to possess spiritual significance to the Wari.
Several significant and monumental structures discovered in the remaining ruins of the city include the Cheque Wasi, otherwise known as the Stone House, which contained tombs of assumed Wari nobility and rulers. Therefore, the Cheque Wasi served an important political purpose to the Wari civilization. Moreover, the Moraduchquq, a temple dedicated to ceremonial purposes, also represents a significant archeological excavation that showcases the function of religion within Wari society. In both of these discoveries, there is evidence of different building techniques, such as the utilization of stone masonry and sunken courts. Terracing and irrigation further characterize the city as evidence of canals, aqueducts, and reservoirs remain evident in recent excavations. The ruins also highlight the extremely structured nature of the city as several sectors divided the city into varying components. After the initial development of the city during the period of 600 AD to 700 AD and its eventual collapse after 1000 AD, the site was identified as the Wari capital in the 1950s. Eventually, excavations of the royal tomb and ruins of different complexes were discovered over time, yet there are still many unknowns as the Wari lacked an identifiable writing system.
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