Middle Horizon



1.  The period from the end of the 6th century AD until AD 1000 is a time of major change termed the Middle Horizon after the spread of Tiwanaku-derived iconography through much of the Andes.  The agent of expansion north of the Titicaca Basin was the central highland polity of Wari (Huari).  Wari derived much of its symbolism of power from Tiwanaku and reinterpreted it for its own political purposes, establishing a sphere of influence similar to that of Tiwanaku in central and northern Peru.  Like Tiwanaku Wari directly governed a core area, mostly in the highlands, and extended its influence elsewhere through ideological and economic power.


2.  Major change occurred in the first half of the Middle Horizon.  This was the period that saw the decline and end of the Moche valley polities of the north coast where Wari, while not apparently constituting an invading power, did exert its influence on the declining regional Moche polities.  Elsewhere Wari directly incorporated the highlands and probably parts of the central coast into a political sphere.  Farther afield Wari invaded the Tiwanaku domain and established a temporary colony there, temporarily eclipsing Tiwanaku power before retreating again.


3.  Wari expansion accompanied major climatic disruptions at the end of the 6th century as seen in the Quelccaya glacial cores.  These included major El Nino events and a sustained 30-year drought that concluded in AD 594.  Such sustained ecological stress spurred technological, economic and political change that characterized the Middle Horizon.



The Ideological Foundation of Wari Expansion

1. During the last decades of the 6th century (Okros Phase) the iconography of Tiwanaku appear at Wari as central ideological symbols of its growing power.  The nature of the connection between Tiwanaku and Wari is unclear with suggestions that the former was a major pilgrimage center, thus spread its influence through the visitors who attended its festivals, that it distributed its symbolism through its envoys, or that that initial Wari expansion to the south introduced it to the invaders.


2. Tiwanaku symbols adopted by Wari include:

The Gateway God and his attendants

Portrait vessels (using large urns rather than the Tiwanaku drinking vessels)

Ritual drinking vessels

Ceremonial architecture (the sunken “temple” at Wari)


3.  This modified Tiwanaku ideological inventory was then diffused through Wari political or prestige influence throughout central and northern Peru - even appearing in areas like the late and post-Moche north coast, which was never subjected to Wari conquest.



The Agricultural Foundation for Wari Expansion

1.  Intensive agriculture based on terracing of steep mountain slopes was probably first used by the central highland ancestors of the Wari (Huarpa culture).  


2.  Terrace agriculture as used in the Ayacucho area around Wari had two interconnected advantages over rainfall-watered agriculture.

- It permitted use of very steep terrain that would otherwise have been unusable.

- This very steep terrain is located at higher elevations of the mountain slopes above the sierra valleys.  These higher slopes were closer to high mountain springs from where water could be brought by canals, thus lessening the dependence on rainfall. 


3.  It appears that prior to the late 6th century droughts terrace agriculture was confined to the Ayacucho Basin and adjacent areas, the core Wari lands.  While during this period there was no practical advantage gained by this form of agriculture, when the long droughts began the situation changed dramatically. The highland communities beyond Ayacucho were negatively impacted by onset of a long period of significantly less rainfall.  However, terrace farming of the Wari core area was relatively resistant to drought, bestowing great advantage to the Huarpa people.


4.  It was at this time that Wari political influence expanded through the highlands bringing with it terrace agriculture and its related ideological trappings.  It appears that Wari translated its significant economic advantage into political gain during a time of prolonged stress.


Direct Wari Highland Political Domination

1.  Like Tiwanaku Wari influence comprised direct rule in the central and northern highlands of Peru and indirect influence throughout the coastal regions.


2.  Numerous Wari administrative centers have been found in the central highland “core region.”  The best known is Pikillaqta south of Cuzco.  Pikillaqta is characteristic in being a planned settlement containing several rectangular plazas, surrounded by blocks of small storage and workrooms and large residential units.  Some buildings were two or three stories in high. Work at Pikillaqta indicates that chicha beer was produced and stored there and that festival involving feasting occurred.  This may represent an earlier version of the Inca pattern.


3.  In the northern highlands Viracocha Pampa represented the largest center of Wari power. This administrative center was larger than Pikillaqta but basically contained the same architectural and spatial components.


4. Cerro Baul represents the only instance of direct intrusion by Wari into the Tiwanaku area of control.  The site is a fortified mesa top in the Moquegua Valley - inland from the extensive Tiwanaku settlements and agricultural areas of the middle valley flatlands.  It comprises a series of multi-story rooms surrounding rectangular plazas as in the other Wari settlements and containing elite Wari ritual and feasting vessels.  During the century or more of its existence the Wari colonizers built a substantial area of terraced fields fed by an extensive feeder canal around Cerro Baul.  Around 750-800 the center was abandoned.


Indirect Wari Coastal Influence

1.  Wari coastal influence appears to have been generally through ideological adoption with its accompanying ritual items and elite burial goods. 


2. There is no good evidence with the possible exception of the south-central coast around Nazca for direct intrusion.


3.  Wari iconography appears to a significant degree on the North Coast at the time of the end of the Moche period when central Wari motifs like the Gateway God and his attendants appear on ceramics and architectural murals indicating adoption by regional elites of Wari ideological tenets.