#potd: Rumicolca – the Wari and Inca southern entry point to Cusco valley

Built over 500 years ago by the Inca’s, this defensive wall & entry point is named ‘Rumicolca’ and was used by them to control the flow of people & goods into the Cusco valley from the south-east. As with so much the Inka did, it was in fact an improvement on a structure built by others centuries before, in this case by the Wari (or Huari in Spanish) people.
cusco_sthgateRumicolca is an impressive structure some 12m tall and 3-4m thick. It’s located some 32km south-east of Cusco city, in the valley of the River Watanay (or Huatanay). The original Wari construction is believed to have been an aqueduct over where the river would then have flowed, but by the time of the Inca drought had lowered the water level of both the river and the nearby lakes of Huacarpay & Sucre, a process that continues today.

Impressive as the Inca structure is, arguably more impressive is the legacy of the Wari culture & empire, which existed from around 500-1100AD, although archeologists & others differ on the exact dates. The Wari originated from the region & city now known as Ayacucho in present day south-central Peru, in the Andes – this is a region that has continued throughout history to be rebellious, and as recently as the 1980-90’s was the base for the Sendero Luminosa (or Shining Path) maoist inspired peasant rebellion. The Wari came to dominate much of the south-central highlands of Peru and most of the coast, and went as far south as the shores of Lake Titicaca, where they ran into the Tiwanaku (or Tiahuanaco in Spanish) culture & empire, in what is now called Bolivia.

 

Remains of the Wari city of Pikillacta, built around 800AD, looks down over the valley of Watanay

Remains of the Wari city of Pikillacta, built around 800AD, looking over the valley of Watanay

Built on the sloping mountainside, Pikillacta is believed to have covered some 116 acres, housing upto 8000 people

Built on the sloping mountainside, Pikillacta is believed to have covered some 116 acres, housing upto 8000 people

 

 

 

 

walls at Pikillacta, possibly also known as the 'town of the flea', were 2 stories high and made of smaller stones & clay or mud adobe

walls at Pikillacta, possibly also known as the ‘town of the flea’, were 2 stories high and made of smaller stones & clay or mud adobe

The Wari were not just warriors, they also built forts, cities, roads, irrigation systems, and developed agriculture, ceramics & woven materials – all things the Inca became famous for. Near to Rumicolca they built the fortified city of Pikillacta around 800AD on high ground overlooking the river & lakes, which is believed to have been home to thousands of people. The ruins of Pikillacta are in poor condition, but well worth a look.

Not that much is really known about the Wari, not least because much of what they built was either built upon, or destroyed, by the Inca, and again later by the Spanish (see some Wari history here). In present day Peru the government dedicates little funding to uncovering past histories & excavating sites, and much of the work is done privately – this applies both to Inca and earlier cultures. However one has a hunch there is another reason too – the myths & ‘histories’ of the Inca are of huge benefit financially to the Peruvian state and some individuals, so why ruin a winner by possibly uncovering sites & information that may diminish the Inca myths? Future articles may well return to the Wari culture & empire, and their convenient disappearance just before the emergence of the Inca!

some 7km closer to Cusco the Inca experimental agricultural terraces at Tipon are a work of beauty & skill

some 7km closer to Cusco the Inca experimental agricultural terraces at Tipon are a work of beauty & skill

Tipon too offered a commanding view of the Watanay valley

Tipon too offered a commanding view of the Watanay valley

 

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