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Pots with a Message

Some of the motifs used by Wari potters depict gruesome scenes of bloody combat and sacrifice. For example, some Wari ceramics show severed heads, arms, and legs as well as warriors dressed in animal masks and holding trophy heads. Like many ancient cultures, the Wari used their pottery as a way to promote state propaganda, whether as a means of conveying religious messages or demonstrating their political power. "Most pottery was state controlled," says Gordon McEwan, an archaeologist at New York's Wagner College. "A lot of pottery was made solely for feasts, then smashed as part of the ceremony. It was a reciprocity ceremony: The lords gave a big feast to thank the locals for their service and loyalty, and everyone drank chicha [a fermented drink] from the symbolically painted pots."

Text Source: Morell, Virginia, and Kenneth Garrett. "Empires Across the Andes." National Geographic Magazine June 2002: 106+. National Geographic Virtual Library.
Photograph by:
  • Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic Creative