Piecing together the middle

Kit Nelson, Nathan Craig, Manuel Perales

Research output: Chapter in Book/ReportChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The data for the Norte Chico do not fit expectations of social or political control by the Wari during the Middle Horizon (MH). Instead, they reveal participation of local polities in at least two panregional iconographic phenomena as well as in their own localized systems. These levels of participation are visible in architecture and pottery stylistic features in both the Pativilca and Huaura valleys. Stylistic similarities in architecture document local solidarity by the presence of repeated room forms, invoking shared concepts of architecture and space. Pottery styles represent a duality that is indicated by the inclusion of both Central Coast press-mold pottery and more general MH polychromes. Both architecture and pottery, which each represent multilevel and multimedia systems of style, come together to form the complex MH of the Norte Chico. Previous notions of the incorporation of the Norte Chico in the Wari Empire have been based on expansionist models that include the north-central coast in the broad area of control. These assumptions of Wari dominance were based on characterizations of the Wari as having broad control over vast regions (Isbell and McEwan 1991; Schreiber 1992) and on isolated finds of Wari-like architecture and pottery in the region. The Norte Chico was included within the Wari Empire because of its location close to sites such as Pachacamac (Rostoworski de Diez Canseco 1992; Shimada 1991; Uhle 1903) and Socos (Isla and Guerrero 1987), which were argued to have Wari components. The interpretation of the Norte Chico as one of the many areas under Wari domination was sealed by a few tantalizing descriptions of Wari-type artifactual remains discovered in the Supe Valley (Menzel 1977; Reiss and Stuebel 1880; Uhle 1925) and at the coastal site of Vegueta in the Huaura Valley (Shady and Ruiz 1979). As a result, the Norte Chico is assumed to have been under Wari domination even though there was scant empirical evidence of direct control. Using broadscale patterning of traits, we explore the stylistic elements that compose the MH complex in the Norte Chico. We use these data to document different levels of stylistic spheres, including panregional, regional, and local distributions. These stylistic modalities are displayed in a variety of media, including architecture and pottery, and detail the complex stylistic systems of this frontier zone during the MH. This reevaluation of the MH in the Norte Chico raises larger questions of the role of the Wari in this and other intermediary or frontier areas. These results support a dynamic model of interaction that includes the importance of local systems of power and authority that develop within the context of negotiating the incorporation of specific components of the political ideology that likely underlie the larger stylistic systems.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationBeyond Wari Walls
Subtitle of host publicationRegional Perspectives on Middle Horizon Peru
PublisherUniversity of New Mexico Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780826348678
StateIndexed - 2010


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