The Rich Culture of the Ancient Huari Empire


| LAST UPDATE 03/03/2022

By Stanley Wickens
huari empire history discovery
ERNESTO BENAVIDES / Stringer via Getty Images

The island of Peru is known among many as a place rich in its culture and history. With additional archaeological research being done on its history, we are learning more about the ancient civilizations that once ruled the land.

A royal palace dating back to more than a thousand years ago was discovered by archaeologists in 2013 at the site of El Castillo de Huarmey. Although artifacts have been stolen from the site for over a thousand years, a royal tomb had remained intact and unexplored. Its discovery and excavation have shed light on the socio-economic and political history of the Huari Empire, which ruled the region long before it was discovered by Europeans.

peru archaeology el castillo
ERNESTO BENAVIDES / Stringer via Getty Images
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The civilization's lack of a writing system provided no recorded history of the Huari people, but an examination of the palace helped researchers understand the rise of the empire to power in the 7th century. It was constructed between 900 and 1000 A.D. and used as a burial site for royals and nobles of the empire. The palace was interpreted as a place devoted to worshipping ancestors of the Huari people; through the dead, the living then established themselves as the rightful rulers of the region. “If you want to take possession of the land,” said archaeologist Krzysztof Makowski, “you have to show that your ancestors are inscribed on the landscape. That’s part of Andean logic.”

At the tomb in El Castillo, archaeologists found remains indicating the importance of social rank to the Huari people, even after death. The tomb's inhabitants were deceased women and girls, four of whom stood out to researchers, appearing to be of a higher social rank than the rest. They were dressed in finely woven clothing and adorned with luxurious jewelry, including gold earrings and crystal necklaces. Perhaps the most valuable artifacts found in the tomb were weaving tools made of gold, indicating that the activity very important to Huari women. An examination of the skeleton of one of the deceased, nicknamed Huarmey Queen, provided insights into the life of an elite Huari woman. She spent most of her time sitting, but used her upper body extensively, leading researchers to believe she was a dedicated weaver. Her missing teeth also indicated she regularly drank chicha, an alcoholic beverage consumed only by the elite. As research at the site continues, we can only expect more insights into the rich culture of the Huari Empire.

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