Cultures & Traditions

Wari (Huari)

In the history of the central Andes, the Middle Horizon (600–1000 CE) was dominated by two cultures, Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) and Huari (Wari). The names of the cultures derive from two imperial cities that flourished in the central and southern highlands—Huari near the modern city of Ayacucho in present-day Peru, and Tiahuanaco on the edge of Lake Titicaca in what is now northwestern Bolivia. Expanding their influence to other highland and coastal regions, they are often called the first Andean empires, since their political and administrative tactics paved the way for later expansive states—those of the Chimú and the Inca (Inka). The Huari culture existed by 600 CE and is closely related in style to Tiahuanaco. The Huari adopted many themes expressed in Tiahuanaco art, but created more abstract, deconstructed images compared to Tiahuanaco's more literal art style. Huari also influenced the Late Nazca (Ica) culture of the southern coast and the site of Pachacamac on the central coast.

The nature of Huari and Tiahuanaco expansion and their cultural interrelation remain points of discussion among archaeologists—their coastal influence, nevertheless, defines the Middle Horizon. Social relations and status in this period were conveyed through clothing, ritual, and feasting. Huari and Tiahuanaco polities promoted feasting with maize beer—chicha in Spanish or aqha in Quechua—utilizing storage jars, serving vessels, and goblet-style cups. The cup form would remain popular throughout the Andes and was later appropriated by the Inca. The Huari standardized the production of male tunics and hats, which suggests the formation of associated status such as military ranking—the Inca would later practice a similar form of textile standardization. While colonial documents provide perspectives on Inca imperialism, the Huari state expansion is approached through architectural and material remains of Huari and Huari-hybrid arts, blended with cultures such as the south coast Nazca and north coast Moche.

Drawn from

  • DMA unpublished material [2004.55.McD], 2004.

  • Getty Vocabulary, AAT (Huari (Wari): AAT: 300017283).

  • Kimberly L. Jones, "Inca: Conquests of the Andes / Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes," Label Copy (Foundations), 2015.

Related Multimedia

Learn about the Huari culture.

Web Resources

  • Reuters
    Read about a Wari burial unearthed in Huaca Pucllana, Peru.

  • National Geographic
    See photos from a mass royal tomb recently found in El Castillo de Huarmey, Peru.

  • The Wall Street Journal
    An interview with Susan E. Bergh, curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art.