Finely woven, brightly colored hats, customarily featuring a square crown, four sides, and four pointed tips, are most frequently associated with two ancient cultures of the Andes: the Wari and the Tiwanaku. The Wari Empire dominated the south-central highlands and the west coastal regions of what is now Peru from 500–1000 A.D. The Tiwanaku occupied the altiplano (high plain) directly south of Wari-populated areas around the same time, including territory now part of the modern country of Bolivia. The cultures not only developed and flourished as contemporaries, but also occupied adjacent lands for nearly four centuries. A Wari ceremonial center called Cerro Baúl was located a mere five miles from Tiwanaku-settled fields in the Moquegua Valley of Peru. The two cultures likely encountered each other at Cerro Baúl and elsewhere, but the nature of these interactions remains largely unknown.
Four-cornered hats from both the Wari and the Tiwanaku were made from camelid fibers carefully prepared into yarns and expertly dyed. Artists from the two cultures also employed similar geometric designs (primarily diamonds, crosses, and stepped triangles), and stylized images representing plants and zoomorphic forms such as long-legged birds and llamas with wings on their backs. The Wari and the Tiwanaku visual programs, comparable in design and pattern, suggest that they shared primary icons and a common religious foundation. A staffed deity with winged attendants frequently appears in the iconography of both cultures. Despite these parallels, scholars believe that the Wari and the Tiwanaku had distinct and separate socio-political practices, particularly in regards to governance and site building.
Although they shared certain technological traditions, such as complex tapestry weaving and knotting techniques, the Wari and the Tiwanaku utilized significantly different construction methods to create four-cornered hats. Wari artists typically fashioned the top and corner peaks as separate parts and later assembled them together. Tiwanaku artists generally knotted from the top down, starting with the top and four peaks, to create a single piece. In addition, four-cornered hats knotted with pile have largely been discovered at Wari sites, while those knotted without pile have been found in Tiwanaku burials. Through these variances, scholars have been able to attribute individual works to one group or the other.
Four-cornered hats, although found in burial sites as funerary offerings, have also been discovered with signs of repeated and general use, such as worn edges, ancient mends, and stains of hair oil. In Wari and Tiwanaku societies, four-cornered hats were likely worn by high-ranking men as symbols of power and status, both in life and in death. Figures wearing four-cornered hats are frequently depicted on ceramics from both cultures, worn alongside other elite regalia including elaborate textiles, featherworks, and beaded collars.
Ji Mary Seo
Lifchez-Stronach Curatorial Intern, 2018
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