Wari artist(s)

Not on view

This small turquoise figurine represents a standing male warrior with a large head—in scale, over half the size of the entire figure—with carefully carved features. The figure wears circular ear ornaments and a headdress with a raised circular element on the proper left side. The headdress is fastened under the chin and extends down the back. The feet and proper left hand are only minimally indicated. Two prominent carved circular voids may have once held attachments or inlays: one, at the location of the proper right arm, was likely for the insertion of a war club or shield, now missing; the other, above the forehead, may have held an inlay, also now missing. The figure wears a triangular-shaped loincloth, indicated by linear incisions.

Small votive turquoise figurines are among the best-known sculptures to have survived from the Wari Empire, a polity that thrived in the Central Andes centuries before the rise of the Inca Empire. Three large groups of such figurines have been found at the Wari site of Pikillacta, near Cuzco, Peru, likely deposited as offerings along with Spondylus shell valves and other items. Such offerings reveal aspects of Wari imperial ritual practice and statecraft. The Pikillacta figurines, found in circular, stone-covered pits, or, in one case, buried near the threshold of the site’s main entrance, average 3-4 cm in height (for a similar example of this type see accession number 1979.206.926).

This figurine, however, is distinct from those found at Pikillacta. Reportedly found at the capital of Wari itself, it is both slightly larger than the Pikillacta examples, and distinctive in dress and in the presence of the two circular voids, one of which surely once held a war club or shield, perhaps made of a different material. The other striking feature of this figurine, unlike the Pikillacta examples, which seem to represent Wari dignitaries, is that it is dressed in the style of the coastal neighbors of the Wari, the Moche. The headdress type, in particular, is often shown in depictions of Moche warriors.

Joanne Pillsbury, Andrall E. Pearson Curator, Arts of the Ancient Americas, 2020

Further Reading
Arriola Tuni, Carlos A., and Louis D. Tesar. "The Pikillacta 2004 Eastern Gate Offering Pit," Ñawpa Pacha 31, no. 1 (2011): 1-44

Bergh, Susan E. 2012. "Figurines." In Susan E. Bergh, Luis Guillermo Lumbreras, and Luis Jaime Castillo Butters et al., Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, pp. 232-241. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012

Cook, Anita G. "The Stone Ancestors: Idioms of Imperial Attire and Rank among Huari Figurines." Latin American Antiquity 3, no. 4 (1992): 341-64.

Figurine, Wari artist(s), Turquoise, Wari

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