The Wari empire ruled over all of Peru from their mountainous base in the Andes before the rise of the better-known Inca civilization. In a royal tomb that was unearthed by archaeologists in Peru, treasures and the skeletons of three Wari queens in seated positions and surrounded by gold and silver jewelry could reveal new insights on the Wari empire and its eventual demise.
The archaeologists in Peru were worried about tomb robbers when they realized the importance and value of what they’d discovered, fearing that when news leaked out, looters would try to rob the 1,200-year-old tomb of its treasures. They spent months secretly digging through the burial chambers, hoping that their discovery wouldn’t attract grave robbers.
The sheer sophistication of Wari artwork has long attracted looters, who have ransacked the remains of imperial palaces and shrines searching for jewelry and artifacts that will give them instant fame and wealth.
The Wari civilization thrived for approximately three hundred years, from the 7th to 10th centuries AD. The capital of the Waris was near the modern-day city of Ayacucho, in the Andes. It was called Huari. They conquered all of what is now Peru before experiencing a mysterious and dramatic decline.
Huari, at the height of its power, boasted a population conservatively estimated at about 40,000 people. At the same time, Paris, by comparison, had just 25,000 residents.
The Wari lords have long been overshadowed by the later Inca, but in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D., the Wari built an empire that spanned much of present-day Peru.
There were a total of 63 skeletons discovered inside the tomb, including three Wari queens buried with gold and silver jewelry and brilliantly-painted ceramics.
An indication that the archaeologists had found a royal tomb, besides the gold and silver jewelry, the ceramics, and the textiles, was that several of the figures were sitting upright.
According to the archaeologists, the tomb is located in El Castillo de Huarmey, about 280km (175 miles) north of Lima.
The sights that met the eyes of the archaeologists had them in awe. The co-director of the project, Milosz Giersz, tried to express how they felt with his dramatic statement which was quoted by Reuters:
“We have found for the first time in Peruvian archaeological history, an imperial tomb of the Wari culture. The contents of the chamber consisted of 63 human bodies, most of them women, wrapped in funerary bundles buried in the typical seated position, a native Wari pattern.”
The way other bodies were positioned, according to forensic archaeologist Wieslaw Wieckowski, indicated that human sacrifice was practiced by the Waris.
Six of the skeletons we found in the grave were not in the textiles. They were placed on the top of the other burials in very strange positions, so we believe that they were sacrifices.
“The fact that most of the skeletons were of women and the very rich grave goods, leads us to the interpretation that this was a tomb of the royal elite and that also changes our point of view on the position of the women in the Wari culture.”
Their Andean capital, Huari, became one of the world’s great cities.
Did the Wari forge their empire by conquest, persuasion, or a combination of the two? No one knows for sure.
If only the three skeletons of the Wari queens found in the Peruvian tomb could talk, and reveal their secrets! It is, instead, left up to researchers and archaeologists to give them voices and make them live again via their research.
Written by: Douglas Cobb