Reassessing Wari Power in the Central Andes: Local Agency, Trade, and Competition in the Cusco Region

Author(s): Véronique Bélisle

Year: 2018


The Wari state of the Central Andes has traditionally been interpreted as an expansive polity that incorporated numerous provinces during the Middle Horizon (A.D. 600-1000). Most research has focused on the large Wari installations built in several regions of Peru, leading many scholars to conclude that Wari administrators established direct imperial control over these areas. More recently, scholars have started to adopt a complementary bottom-up approach to study changes experienced at the regional and household levels by smaller communities living outside the large Wari installations. This new perspective challenges previous interpretations of Wari as a strong, centralized, all-controlling colonial authority. In the Cusco region, survey and excavation data suggest that local populations were little affected by Wari presence. Continuity in settlement patterns and domestic and ritual activities reveal that locals did not adopt Wari practices. Like other early states worldwide, the Wari polity might have built enclaves that helped its settlers tap into the knowledge, authority, and networks of local elites. Obsidian, hallucinogenic snuff, and other exotic goods from Cusco further demonstrate that Wari colonists did not interrupt regional and long-distance exchange networks, but might have intensified prestige-goods competition and altered the balance of power among local societies.

Cite this Record

Reassessing Wari Power in the Central Andes: Local Agency, Trade, and Competition in the Cusco Region. Véronique Bélisle. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443750)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -82.441; min lat: -56.17 ; max long: -64.863; max lat: 16.636 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 19926