Archaeology of Huaraz pt. I: Waullac

This is the first post in a series to promote the archaeological heritage of Huaraz, Peru. Huaraz draws a significant number of tourists to visit yearly, but statistically it still does not receive as many visitors as other places like Puno, Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa. Nevertheless, most people are drawn to the natural landscape and miss out on the archaeological sites within and immediately around the city. Luckily I had Jhon Cruz, a local archaeologist and a colleague and collaborator of mine, as my tour guide; I owe much of the information that I write about this site here to his expertise.

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Waullac is a Middle Horizon site (ca. 600 – 1,000 C.E.) occupied namely by the Recuay culture that developed after the Chavín cultural phenomenon of the Formative Period, and subsequently expanded throughout much of the region now known as Ancash.

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One of the most famous icons of the Recuay culture within popular conceptions of Peruvian history are their rock carvings, replicas of which can be found throughout the city of Huaraz. Here is the only original rock carving left at Waullac. Jhon points to the hand of a figure portrayed in the design.

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The site is mainly dominated by chulpas, usually one-roomed tombs in which the remains of the dead would be stored. Before the Middle Horizon, the Recuay buried their dead, but as a result of cultural interaction during this period, funerary traditions changed. The chulpas allow for families to revisit the bodies of their loved ones to give offerings, as well as to inter other members of their clans. Today, chulpas have been looted and are mostly filled with trash and graffiti from visitors. Chulpas are found in different styles throughout Peru, usually overlooking valleys and oriented towards important topographic features like mountains.

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There are also store houses from this period that display evidence of remodelling. This indicates that the site was not just funerary, but had multiple functions.

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Because I am obsessed with rocks, my favourite thing I saw at this site was this wanka. To most people, it might just look like a weird rock sticking out of the ground. Well, it is, but you should remember that in the Andes, anything has the potential to be living, and rock is certainly no exception. Particularly strange looking rocks were – and still are in some places – revered as ancestors and guardians. Wankas are a particular class of rocks that were monolithic in form and usually took a protective role, overlooking particular vistas in order to legitimize land claims (see Carolyn Dean’s work for more information).

If you are in Huaraz, please take the time to visit this amazing site! Feel free to comment if you have any questions.

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