We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE


The Wari Empire in Cuzco

Gordon F. McEwan

Publication Year: 2005

The origin of the first Andean imperial state has been the subject of lively debate for decades. Archaeological sites dating to the Peruvian Middle Horizon time period, A.D. 540 to 900, appear to give evidence for the emergence of an expansive empire that set the stage for the development of the later Inca state. This archaeological investigation of Pikillacta, the largest provincial site of Peru’s pre-Inca Wari empire, provides essential background for interpreting the empire’s political and cultural organization.

With engineering skills rivaling those of the builders of Cuzco itself, the Wari at Pikillacta erected more than seven hundred buildings covering nearly two square kilometers, with a fresh water supply and an elaborate underground sewage system but, enigmatically, only seven short streets and a near total lack of windows. In this long-awaited volume, Gordon McEwan and his colleagues report on the labor costs of construction (nearly 6 million man-days), the typology of Pikillacta's enigmatic architecture, and the site’s spectacular hydraulic system as well as its ceramics and chronology, human remains, and metal artifacts.

In the final section, building on his years of research and excavation, McEwan develops a hypothetical model of Wari provincial administration in the Cuzco region, arguing that the Wari were innovators of techniques of statecraft that explain the function of and the labor investment in the Pikillacta complex. His book not only substantively contributes to our understanding of when and exactly how and why Pikillacta was built and what it was used for, it also illuminates the political and cultural antecedents of the Inca state.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (25.2 KB)
pp. vii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (25.2 KB)
pp. ix

The fieldwork on which this study is based was made possible by grants from the University of Texas Latin American Archaeological Program, the Fulbright-Hays Research Abroad Fellowship program, and National Science Foundation Grants BNS-8112729, BNS-8819481, and BNS-9044446. ...

read more

1 Introduction: Pikillacta and the Wari Empire

pdf iconDownload PDF (150.8 KB)
pp. 1-8

Scholars have long been interested in how, when, and where the first Andean imperial state appeared. Over the past half century research efforts have focused on the Middle Horizon time period (A.D. 540 to 900) and specifically on the remains of the Wari culture, where we find archaeological evidence ...

Exploration and Excavation at Pikillacta

read more

2 Pikillacta and Its Architectural Typology

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 11-28

Pikillacta is an enormous and complex structure. In order to make sense of it and to perform an archaeological analysis it has been necessary to deconstruct it into its component parts. In this chapter we review various attempts at deciphering the structural concepts originally employed by the Wari architects. ...

read more

3 Excavations at Pikillacta

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.2 MB)
pp. 29-62

Prior to the 1982 field season, some preliminary studies of Pikillacta were conducted in 1978 and 1979 (McEwan 1979). In the course of these studies, four test cuts were made in the so-called qolqas, the conjoined rooms of Sector 4 (fig. 2.7). Two of these excavations produced remains including fire hearths, ...

read more

4 Pikillacta Architecture and Construction Requirements

pdf iconDownload PDF (414.4 KB)
pp. 63-84

Some of the most intriguing questions about Pikillacta are those revolving around how it was built, how long it took to build, and what it cost to erect such an enormous complex. Nearly everyone who has commented on the site has observed that it is extremely large and well ordered ...

read more

5 Wari Hydraulic Works in the Lucre Basin

pdf iconDownload PDF (549.8 KB)
pp. 85-98

The principal hydraulic works of the Lucre Basin (canals, reservoirs, aqueducts, and so forth; see fig. 5.1) are associated with the site of Pikillacta itself as well as with the vast terraces and cultivable fields of the basin, which reveals that the agricultural production that supported the valley economically ...

Data Analysis

read more

6 Pottery from Pikillacta

pdf iconDownload PDF (255.6 KB)
pp. 101-114

Unlike many archaeological sites, which possess dense surface scatters of pottery and other artifactual remains, Pikillacta is virtually devoid of these. The only potsherds one may find are generally clustered at the entrance of Sector 2, where visitors begin their tours. ...

read more

7 Dating Pikillacta

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.6 KB)
pp. 115-124

Despite the fact that Pikillacta is a single component site, dating its construction and occupation has proved to be somewhat problematic. Absolute and relative dating methods have generated inconsistent data sets, making it difficult to assess the site’s temporal parameters. ...

read more

8 Human Skeletal Remains from Pikillacta

pdf iconDownload PDF (166.5 KB)
pp. 125-130

Human skeletal remains recovered from excavations at Pikillacta include four complete or partial skeletons and a cache of ten crania, as well as isolated skeletal elements recovered from various excavation units. The crania from the cache pit, excavated during the 1982 field season, ...

read more

9 Arsenic Bronze at Pikillacta

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.1 MB)
pp. 131-146

Bronze in the Andean culture area was a Middle Horizon phenomenon (Lechtman 1997, 1999). Between about A.D. 600 and 1000, several bronze alloys were developed and used in the extensive region covering present-day Ecuador, in the north, to northern Chile and northwest Argentina, in the south. ...

read more

10 Conclusion: The Functions of Pikillacta

pdf iconDownload PDF (569.7 KB)
pp. 147-164

The preceding chapters have described the present state of knowledge concerning the Pikillacta site and its function. Despite intensive investigation carried out over many years, this site in many ways remains an enigma. Just what were the Wari doing at Pikillacta and how did this site’s function articulate ...

References Cited

pdf iconDownload PDF (103.0 KB)
pp. 165-178


pdf iconDownload PDF (53.1 KB)
pp. 179-182

E-ISBN-13: 9781587295966

Publication Year: 2005