29 November, 2013

Piquillacta: The Wari fortress of the Sacred Valley


Located about 30 kilometers from Cusco, Piquillacta is the best known archaeological complex of Wari culture outside its capital, located in Ayacucho. The Wari Empire thrived between the years 500 A.D. and 1000 A.D. and although the center of Wari’s empire was mainly located in the province of Huanta (Ayacucho), there are evidences that its influence expanded from the north mochica area down to the Nazca territories down south, encompassing the mountains and the coast of the actual peruvian lands.


Piquillacta’s occupation lasted from the VI to X century. The name of the citadel comes from the quechua words “piki”, a kind of flea, and “llacta”, small, meaning “small town”. Archeological evidence suggest that the Wari, a civilization previous to the Incas, settled first in the neighboring Huaro valley, and then, around the 530 A.D., started the construction of Piquillacta, which would confirm the theory of a remote encounter between the Cusco’s and Ayacucho’s people, centuries before the Wari expansion.


The citadel presents a remarkable urban planification, with a geometric plan that is close to perfection. The buildings, courtyards and main squares were constructed in a rectangular way. The edifications, of uncarved stone and adobe, are arranged in separated groups by straight streets and surrounded by walls up to 12 meters high, that made it look like a fortress. This construction comprises 700 buildings, 200 court yards and 508 storages or colcas, some of them up to three stories tall and, despite the fact that Piquillacta could have alberged around 10 thousand people, it would appear that it was never completely inhabited.


In reference to Piquillacta’s walled perimeter, the reason for its construction would have been to protect the site from other ethnies living nearby in the pre-inca Cusco area, that fought with stubborn resistance the Wari occupation, who would eventually won.


Established in the ravine of the Lucre river, Piquillacta emerged with the purpose of taking control of the new lands in the nearby Urubamba valley. However, the main administrative center of the region would have been abandoned when the decadence of the Wari state began in 900 A.D.


To visit this archeological complex, you can take one of the buses going over the Cusco-Uros route and ask the driver to warn you once you get to Piquillacta; the complex can be seen from the road. There are also collective taxis that depart from La Cultura avenue (in front of San Antonio de Abad University). The journey lasts approximately half an hour. And there are also other touristic operators that offer a one day tour to the spot.