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A D-shaped structure built by the Wari culture, found near Cusco in Peru.

Peruvian Archaeologists Unearth Silver Artifacts, a Massive Temple and an Astronomical Observatory Near Cusco

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An astronomical observatory, massive Inca stone walls, ruins of a huge temple, and artifacts left by elite members of the Wari culture are some of the fascinating elements found at a Pre-Hispanic archaeological site recently unearthed near Cusco, Peru.

According to Agencia Andina, the discovery was made at the Espiritu Pampa archaeological site in the Southern Cusco region of Peru. This was confirmed by the Decentralized Culture Directorate of Cusco (DDCC) – the same state-run body which is responsible for conserving the precious artifacts found at the site.

Some of the Wari artifacts found at the Espiritu Pampa archaeological site near Cusco, Peru.

Some of the Wari artifacts found at the Espiritu Pampa archaeological site near Cusco, Peru. (Peruvian Ministry of Culture)

Archaeologists excavated animal tooth fragments, silver needles, a silver crown or headdress, brooches, a silver chest plate, Wari-style bottles, and ceremonial ceramic vessels inside a structure identified as a temple. The most impressive bottle is decorated with a human face and a crown – a feature which provides evidence the area was used by elite members of the Wari (Huari) culture. Tupus (pins) and Inca ceramics were also discovered outside close to the temple.

A decorative Wari vessel found at the site.

A decorative Wari vessel found at the site. (Peruvian Ministry of Culture)

A small D-shaped structure was built at the center of the temple, once a massive D-shaped building. The significant placement of the smaller structure has led archaeologists to suggest the space may have been used by Wari people as a place to perform rituals or astronomical observations. As the Cusco Direction of Peru's Ministry of Culture reported to Telesur, “Due to its symbolic and expressive location, it is considered that the small structure served as [an] astronomical observatory or a place where ancient Waris made magical-religious rituals.”

Inca square and rectangular structures were found alongside the Wari temple.

Inca square and rectangular structures were built alongside the Wari temple. (Peruvian Ministry of Culture)

Wari is the name given to a society that flourished in the Andean highlands and stretched into the rainforest region near Cusco from about 600-1000 AD. April Holloway reported for Ancient Origins that the Wari culture is “widely regarded today as ancient Peru’s first empire […] their Andean capital, Huari, became one of the world's great cities.”

Thousands of archaeological sites have been linked to the Wari. This culture has been recognized for their urban planning, especially their “advanced water conservation system that captured mountain water during the rainy season via canals.” Those canals moved water to springs further down the mountain – which ensured that rivers would continue to flow during the dry season. The Wari canals were so well-planned that modern Peruvians looked to their ancestors while facing recent water shortages.

View of Piquillacta, a Wari archaeological site.

View of Piquillacta, a Wari archaeological site. (AgainErick/CC BY SA 3.0)

A common misperception about the Wari is that they had a strong and centralized economic, political, cultural and military control – like their Inca successors – over most of the populations living across the central Andes. However, it seems that trade and semi-autonomous colonies, rather than conquest, enabled the Wari to flourish. A previous Ancient Origins article states that:

“[…] the Wari, unlike their descendants the Incas, were not quite able to bring colonies directly under their rule. Even at the height of their power, it appears they had a more indirect influence where they expanded when trade routes opened or when they needed access to specific resources.”

Instead of fighting to maintain control, the Wari set up administrative centers with a complex socio-political hierarchy across their domain. Although the Inca had a different ideology about maintaining control of their lands, their construction work was influenced by their predecessors in the Wari culture. As April Holloway writes, “The Wari developed terraced field technology and invested in a major road network. This was a significant legacy which the Inca used when they began to expand their empire several centuries later.”

A Wari funeral bundle.

A Wari funeral bundle. (Public Domain)

Top Image: A D-shaped structure built by the Wari culture, found near Cusco in Peru. Source: Peruvian Ministry of Culture

By Alicia McDermott

Alicia McDermott's picture


Alicia McDermott holds degrees in Anthropology, Psychology, and International Development Studies and has worked in various fields such as education, anthropology, and tourism. Traveling throughout Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, Alicia has focused much of her research on Andean cultures... Read More

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