AYACUCHO, THE WARI AN THE INCA
The coastal area of Pisco was originally linked to the mountain areas of Huancavelica and Ayacucho by roads used for the transport of myths, gods, ideas, governors and goods since the times of the Chavin (400 BC). Along the whole length of this ancient highway lie monuments dating from the different periods of the Chavin, the Wari, the Incas and, finally, the Spanish conquistadors. We can get to Ayacucho (2,750 meters above sea level), after a 45' flight from Lima, or a 5-hour road trip from Pisco (235 km south of Lima) along an excellent paved road. The best time to visit this place is from April to October (average temperature 8-16° Celsius). The annual average temperature is 17.5º Celsius (max. 24ºC and min. 11ºC). The rainy season is from December to March.
In 1550 the Spanish chronicler Pedro Cieza de Leon reported the discovery of some monumental buildings about 25 km from the city of Huamanga, showing a substantially different architecture from that of the Inca buildings previously discovered.
This was Wari, the capital of the first Pan-Andean state by the same name, that flourished in the 550-800 AD period, prior to the advent of the Incas.
Wari is an example of urban planning and pre-Hispanic engineering technology. The size of the urban nucleus is about 400 hectares and, at its peak, it had a population of around 40,000. It is strategically placed at a point affording easy access to the coast and the central jungle, and is at the halfway point between the north and south sierras, where the administrative centers and colonies were located.
A visit to the citadel of Wari means exploring the Cheqowasi sector, consisting of various levels of underground funeral chambers - possibly mausoleums for governors and nobles - in whose construction rectangular, circular and quadrangular slabs of stone were used. Another sector, Moradochayoq, reveals evidence of close contacts with Tiawanaku, a contemporary culture to that of Wari, located 1,500 km away in the giant basin of Lake Titicaca.
A third prominent sector is Capillapata, consisting of trapezoidal and rectangular constructions up to 400 meters in length and furnished with 10 meter-high walls. Finally, we have the Ushoaqoto sector, where the presence of molded figurines indicates an area of workshops and storerooms.
Wari is the expression of a mysterious era we can only guess at. The imprints left by its strategists, engineers, warriors, artisans and priests are engraved on the rocks that watch over its secrets.
The capital city of the Wari empire
In the 550-800 AD period, the first Pan-Andean state by the name of Wari developed in the Ayacucho area. Its capital, also named Wari is located 25 km north of Huamanga, in the district of Ayacucho ( 2,470 meters above sea level)
To control its four immense regions, the Wari Empire built provincial administrative centers under the control of its capital, the most important of them being: Pikllaqta (Cuzco), Cerro Baul (Moquegua) and Viracochapampa (Sierra Norte). Moreover, the Wari Empire had its colonies in different regions, so as to obtain supplies of resources such as turquoises, textiles, coca, cotton and corn.
From the urban viewpoint, the Wari complex reflects internal subdivisions by functional sector. Prominent among these is the Cheqowasi sector, with a sepulchral-type architecture consisting of underground funeral chambers with different levels, possibly the mausoleums of governors and nobles, in whose construction rectangular, circular and quadrangular slabs were used. Another sector, the Moradochayoq, reveals the earliest evidence so far of the site's occupation, reinforcing the idea that the inhabitants were closely linked to the Tiawanaku, a culture contemporary with the Wari, located 1,500 km to the south, in the basin of Lake Titicaca. This piece of evidence is a small underground temple to Putuni (Tiawanaku). Besides, the Wari had as their central deity the "God of the Staffs", an adaptation of the god Tiawanacu, represented in the famous "Portada del Sol" in Puno (the "Doorway of the Sun").
The walled city of Pikillaqta
Pikillaqta or "City of the Fleas", so-called due to the presence of a great number of small (4 square meters in size) enclosures, on a promontory overlooking the beautiful Lucre lake (3,085 meters above sea level), is the largest pre-Inca town and, although located in Cuzco, is indisputably Wari in nature.
One of the most representative locations of the Wari cultural process is Pikillaqta, the most important provincial administrative center and the national symbol of the Wari of Ayacucho in the Cuzco region. It served a double purpose as a ceremonial center and as a residence for nobles, priests and temporary workers. It is a model of urban planning. Within its walled perimeter enclosing some 50 hectares, it was intensively occupied during 1 ½ centuries (700 to 850 AD). Located only 32 km from Cuzco city, Pikillaqta is built on large rectangular and quadrangular esplanades with restricted access. Internal communication is along streets and corridors. Dividing walls over 12 meters high separated the different sectors. Among these, the most noteworthy is the cluster located northwest of the complex, consisting of over 500 standard-size buildings with similar architectural features, designed for single occupancy. This was a single-room complex lodging masses of temporary workers. Other sectors include two-storey buildings with plastered and painted walls.
Vilcaswaman - a major administrative center
Some 110 km from the city of Ayacucho, Vilcaswaman (3,470 meters above sea level), formed the first Inca administrative center in Chichaysuyu, and was founded by Pachacutec in the second half of the 15th century AD.
This settlement, covering some 2 km2, consists of a great plaza and the residences allocated to Tupac Inca Yupanqui and Huayna Capac, two of the last Cuzco sovereigns, who used them occasionally. There are also two religious-type buildings, known as the "Temple of the Sun" and the ushnu or worshipping-place. The former stone temple in the Cuzco style is at the southern end of the plaza and is raised on three superimposed platforms. Its architectural features make it the largest monumental sanctuary built during the Tawantinsuyu. It is reached from the central plaza by means of two stairways of 30 steps each. Over the old temple building stands the catholic church of St. John the Baptist, built in colonial times. Behind the temple is the Acllawasi, or "sun virgins' house" of which the only remains now standing are a monumental finely-finished polygonal wall and some channels and walls.
The other important building, also in Huamanga, and the only one of its kind in Tawantinsuyu is the so-called "worshipping place" or ushnu, located at the west of the plaza. It is a pyramid-shaped construction some 8 meters high, formed by quadrangular superimposed platforms. At the center of the frontispiece, a finely worked double panel door permits access to a stairway leading to a higher level, where there is a huge two-seat stone chair carved from a single block of stone (chroniclers report that sacrifices to the sun-god were made here). The Inca plaza was semi-trapeze-shaped, dropping steeply on two of its sides (east and north) in a series of terraces. Some 1,500 m to the south lie some of the 700 deposits or "qolqas", mentioned by the Spanish chronicler Cieza de Leon in his writings around 1548. At present, on the eastern slopes, one can make out a stone platform 3 meters high and 100 meters wide. At the same spot one can find the so-called "sacrifice stone" with a hollow on one side from which two channels emerge, zigzagging over the width of the stone before they meet again.
If you decide to venture forth on this trip, remember this citadel lies 25 km north of Huamanga.