An article in the December edition of the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology argues that the Wari — the complex civilization that preceded the Inca empire between 600 and 1000 AD in the Andean highlands — didn’t rule by pillage, plunder and an aggressive bureaucracy.
The authors of the study — Alan Covey, Brian S. Bauer, Veronique Belisle, and Lia Tsesmeli — contend that, unlike their successors, the Wari didn’t conquer so much as colonize. Theirs is, they claim, the first study to present “data from a series of systematic archaeological surveys in the Cusco region of highland Peru to evaluate patterns of influence by the Wari state during a period of colonization from ca. AD 600–1000.”
They trace the social, cultural, and economic influence of the Wari via the distribution of Wari pottery and “a geographic information systems analysis of travel time from key sites” under Wari influence, paying special attention to the distribution of artifacts in a 70 kilometer radius around Pikillacta, a Wari administrative center.
The results of the study indicate that the Wari created loosely administered colonies, encouraging trade rather than demanding tribute. While they may have wielded some administrative power over these colonies, they never formally transitioned them into the Wari civilization itself.
As the study’s lead author told a Dartmouth reporter, “[a] ‘colonization first’ interpretation of early Wari expansion encourages the reconsideration of motivations for expansion, shifting from military conquest and economic exploitation of subject populations to issues such as demographic relief and strategic expansion of trade routes or natural resource access.”
[“Aerial view of Pikillacta, facing toward the Cusco Basin” via Department of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History]