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Huari (Wari), the earliest recognized pre-Columbian empire in Peru and the name assigned to a large Middle Horizon (ca. 650–1000 ce) city located in the eastern Ayacucho Valley that is recognized as its capital. The size and complexity of Huari remained unrecognized because it was overshadowed by early colonial descriptions of the Bolivian site of Tiwanaku in the Lake Titicaca Basin, to which the Incas refer in their origin myths. However, recent research indicates that the Incas most likely inherited an imperial tradition that was first developed by the Huari during the Middle Horizon. In the absence of any known form of writing, quipus (colored, knotted strings) were developed and used to record state transactions, an information system also later adopted by the Incas. A road system was built to connect the capital of Huari with its hinterland, some parts of which now lie below the Inca highway system.

Several construction phases are evident in the city. Within the urban center, a Huari building plan consisting of a pattern of regularly arranged rooms of standardized shapes can be detected. One of the dominant architectural components in this style is the repetition of square (sometimes trapezoidal) ground plans with a central courtyard or patio surrounded by narrow two- or three-story galleries or corridors. The provincial Huari towns share similarities in architectural layout, which suggests a central decision-making body was responsible for their plan, while construction efforts probably relied on local masons and workers.

Huari officials gained control of distant territories to the north, south, and west through religious proselytization and military force. These expansion efforts are inferred from changes in regional Middle Horizon settlement patterns that coincide with the appearance of Huari architectural compounds and pottery. Ceramic styles and votive offerings of oversized vessels with Huari figural iconography occur at the capital and within provincial centers and smaller communities as part of the religious images that were propagated throughout the empire. The city of Huari as the seat of imperial power reached its demise in the mid-ninth century. Pachacamac, on the central coast, was a principal Huari oracle and pilgrimage center.

See alsoAndes; Art: Pre-Columbian Art of South America; Huarpa; Indigenous Peoples; Precontact History: Andean Region.


Luis Lumbreras, "La cultura Wari," in Etnología y arqueología 1, no. 1 (1960): 130-227, Las fundaciones de Huamanga (1974), and The Peoples and Cultures of Ancient Peru (1974).

William Isbell and Katharina Schreiber, "Was Huari a State?" in American Antiquity 43, no. 3 (1978): 372-389.

Anita G. Cook, "The Middle Horizon Ceramic Offerings from Conchopata," in Ñ awpa Pacha 22-23 (1984–1985): 49-90.

William Isbell and Gordon Mc Ewan, eds., Huari Administrative Structure: Prehistoric Monumental Architecture and State Government (1991).

Katherina Schreiber, Wari Imperialism in Middle Horizon Peru, Anthropological Papers, no. 87 (Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1992).

Craig Morris and Adriana Von Hagen, The Inca Empire and Its Andean Origins (1993).

Additional Bibliography

Covey, R. Alan. How the Incas Built Their Heartland: State Formation and the Innovation of Imperial Strategies in the Sacred Valley, Peru. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006.

                                              Anita Cook