Understanding Wari Mortuary Practices
Thursday, March 17, 2011 By Katy Meyers
Nine recently discovered tombs from Peru are heralded as being the most important find since Machu Picchu. The tombs – found in the highlands of the Cuzco region of Peru – are part of the Wari culture, a pre-Incan civilization. At present, very little information has been released concerning the actual details of the excavation, but it is currently known that at least 362 artefacts have already been found, including a large silver breastplate that may signify nobility. Other artefacts include a silver mask, gold bracelets, silver-coated walking sticks and feline figurines.
The Wari inhabited Peru from 700 to 1200 CE throughout the coast and highlands and have been extensively studied by Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, William H. Isbell from Binghamton University, New York.
In 2004, Professor Isbell – in order to attempt to understand Wari mortuary preferences – looked at the burials of 200 individuals from Conchopata, a city located in the highlands of central Peru.
The mortuary sample included a range of social classes, sexes and ages, and were in varying states of disturbance due to looting.
Seven types of burial
Isbell identified seven types of burials from Conchopata that occurred during Wari civilization. (See illustration A for types 1,2,3,4,6 & 7).
The first type consisted of individual internment within a small unmarked pit grave. The individual may have a stone slab or two placed over his/her body. The position of the body varies, but is tightly flexed in most cases. The only artefacts found within these graves were rope and textile – probably used to bind the body. These burials were found primarily within domestic residences.