Monday, December 8, 2014

Cultures of the Ancient Americas: A Series in Parts... (Part 4)

The Arizona Museum of Natural History has recently received major donations of objects from the American Southwest, Mesoamerica, and the Andes region of South America. The museum has opened a new exhibition, Cultures of the Ancient Americas, created solely from the new gifts. These magnificent objects offer insights into the cultures that produced them and underscore the monumental achievements of ancient peoples from New Mexico to Bolivia. We also celebrate the extraordinary generosity of our donors, who made the exhibition possible. Moche materials are the gift of Walter Knox of Scottsdale, AZ. Over the next several weeks AzMNH’s Museum Musings will highlight these objects and the cultures they represent, and suggest the special experience awaiting visitors to the exhibition.
Wari Empire and Regional States  (Section 1 & 2)
Wari (Spanish Huari) culture developed in the central and southern Peruvian highlands in the area of Ayacucho beginning about 500 CE, and the Wari Empire ultimately spread along most of the coast of Peru.  Originally, Wari had strong ties to Tiwanaku near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, and its ceramics show Nazca influence.  The Wari built in dressed stone, created large rectangular residential areas and constructed terraced agricultural plots watered by irrigation.  They developed a road system and regional administrative network that were models for the later Inka Empire.

Sea Lion Effigy and Beaker Double Vessel
Wari, c. 500-800 CE

The front part of this double vessel depicts a sea lion with toothy mouth, molded whiskers, ovoid eyes and small ears.  All coastal Peruvian cultures made use of the abundant marine resources of the rich coastal waters.  On the side of the lower part of the vessel are black lines suggestive of flippers.  The beaker at the rear is connected to the effigy by an upper strap and lower hollow tube through which liquids could flow and be poured out the mouth of the seal.  Both the chest of the animal and the rim of the beaker are decorated with volutes and geometric designs.  Flared beakers are known as kero, and among other uses held beer called chicha made from fermented maize, manioc, potatoes, or other fruits and vegetables.  Chicha was drunk on both ceremonial and secular social occasions.

Regional States (900-1430)

After the dissolution of the Wari Empire, regional states arose in the period around 900 to 1430 CE, until the area was again unified under the Inka state.  From north to south along the Peruvian coast the regional states were:  Lambayeque in the north part of the old Moche area, Chimú with its capitol at Chan Chan, Chancay in the area north of present day Lima, and Ica in the old Nazca area.


The late Moche center of Pampa Grande was burned and abandoned about 700 CE.  Following the collapse of the Wari Empire about two hundred years later, Sicán culture arose in the Lambayeque region.  At sites like Batán Grande, Sicán peoples built great pyramids for burial and ritual purposes, constructed monumental irrigation works, continued metal-working traditions, conducted trade over long distances and were socially stratified.

Stirrup Vessel
Lambayeque, 900-1375 CE
North Coast of Peru

This anthropomorphic stirrup vessel has the head of a human on the body of an animal, including a long curved tail.  Frogs occur on the curve of the stirrup.  Head, spout and accents are red on a buff body.

(Join us in 2 weeks for Part 4, section 3 and 4 of Wari Empire and Regional States.)

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