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Interspecies Empire: Animals in the Northern Provinces of the Wari Empire (Modern Peru)

Weronika Tomczyk
Thu May 30th 2024, 9:30 - 10:30am
Terrace Room
Building 460, Room 426

Scholarship on ancient empires rarely considers animals as important forces in forming imperial structures in subjugated peripheries. This project addresses such a problem by investigating human-animal interactions during the rise of the Wari Empire (ca. 600-1100 CE) in modern north-central Peru. Guided by the combination of post-human perspectives and political ecology in anthropological and archaeological thought, this dissertation investigates how various social groups of animals (livestock, companion species, and wildlife) influenced and enabled Wari expansion. 

By analyzing animal bones from Wari administrative and religious centers located in different altitudinal and ecological zones: Castillo de Huarmey (hyperarid Pacific coast), Ichic Wilkawain (central dry highlands) and El Palacio (northern subtropical highlands), I seek to move beyond the common perception of the animal as a resource or commodity. I theorize that the limit of Wari dominance in provinces can be identified through studies of faunal remains. The investigation of South American camelid husbandry serves as a basis for intertwining anthropological and archaeological theories to provide broader insights into Wari ecological engineering. I argue that pastoralism’s interconnected mobility units, the transhumant herd and trade caravan catalyzed interregional human interactions and multispecies exchange. These two kinds of mobility comprise the point of origin for studying the social and economic importance of other animals in the Andes, especially dogs and non-native wild species.

This project reconstructs the impact of animal use in Wari provinces by integrating taphonomy, standard zooarchaeological methods, and multi-elemental isotope analyses (δ13C, δ15N, δ18O, and 87Sr/86Sr). Embedded within a comprehensive review of human-animal entanglement in Pre-Columbian Andes, these analyses reveal complex, highly regionalized patterns of use for each social animal group. Continuing local, preexisting traditions of camelid husbandry led to different political consequences for Wari expansion to the north in each subjugated region. Dogs accompanied humans in variable, mundane routines while ritual displays of captured charismatic wildlife aimed to legitimize Wari ideology to local elites. The results of this dissertation emphasize the broad economic and ideological reliance on animals in ancient Andean imperialism. 

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PW: 050530