Huari and Nievería: a re-assessment of coastal and sierra interaction
By Patricia J. Knobloch.
Paper presented at the 31st Annual Meeting of the Institute of Andean Studies, Berkeley, CA. January, 1991.
Continuing research on this topic can be found at: Who Was Who in the Middle Horizon Andean Prehistory?

          Nievería is the name given to a site on the central coast located 22 km inland on the north side of the Rimac River. It is described as a cemetery created by the large Middle Horizon urban population from Cajamarqulla, a site located just west of the Nievería cemetery. (Figure 1) Nievería is also the name assigned by Menzel (1964:31) to the “local style of fancy pottery of the central coast in Middle Horizon 1B.” Uhle who excavated 34 burials at Nievería discovered this pottery. The burials are also associated with the earlier Lima style pottery and the later Pachacamac style pottery. Of the 148 pottery objects, 68 have grave proveniences assigned by Uhle and the others are assumed to be from graves excavated by huaqueros (Gayton 1927:306). Of the illustrations in Anna Gayton’s (1927) article, none of Menzel’s references to Nievería style examples have grave proveniences. The vessels include: single spout jars, some with a strap handle; double-spout, bridge handle jars; canteen-shaped flasks; three-tiered bottles and pouring bowls. When the Nievería style pottery is compared to its predecessor, the Lima style pottery, the differences are distinct. (Figure 2) This change in pottery styles on the central coast in Middle Horizon 1 is not surprising since there is evidence of prior Moche and Nasca interaction. Lawrence Dawson and others have documented several stylistic changes in the Nasca phase 7 style that are attributed to interaction with the Moche IV population. The eventual participation by central coast populations in this long distance north and south coast interaction contributed to the development of the Nievería style pottery. The question is when did the central coast and highland populations begin to participate? Excavated materials from the site of Huari provide a partial answer to this question.

          At Huari, the analysis of pottery from excavated stratified refuse has confirmed some and changed other hypotheses about the sequence of events that contributed to Huari’s early stages of urbanism and state formation. The Early Intermediate Period assignment of the Huarpa style pottery was confirmed as was the temporal separation of some phase A from phase B design attributes in the locally manufactured Chakipampa and Ocros style pottery. Two events that did not follow the previously accepted sequence were: 1) the manufacture of fancy Chakipampa Phase A pottery, and; 2) the Conchopata A style pottery as represented by the Tello Ofrenda. The patterns of change in vessel shapes, pigmentation, design attributes and iconography indicated that the fancy Chakipampa A style pottery developed after Epoch 1A and towards the end of Epoch 1B. The stylistic similarities between this late Epoch 1B fancy Chakipampa and Nasca Phase 9 style pottery suggests that Nasca’s local pottery for most of Middle Horizon 1 was the result of coastal and highland interaction among populations producing Nasca phase 8 style pottery and Chakipampa and Ocros style pottery.

          Regarding the Tello ofrenda of Conchopata style pottery, excavation of stratified refuse at the site of Conchopata indicated that: 1) the site was occupied in Epoch 1B; and, 2) Conchopata A style sherds were found in deposits dating to Epoch 1B. Thus, our previous assumptions about early Epoch 1A contact with a Tiahuanaco polity that may have introduced a new religion to the Huari populations is moved to a much later date, late Epoch 1B. At that time Huari groups were occupying the site of Pikillaqta in the Cuzco basin and areas as far south as Moquegua.

          Evidence for interaction between Huari populations and both south coast Nasca populations and south highland populations has been suggested and studied for many years. In recent analysis of the pottery from the Huari excavation, I discovered pottery of the central coast Nievería style. (See Figure 3 for Nievería style sherds found in Huari excavations associated with Epoch 1A and 1A/1B transitional materials). Its association with Epoch 1A deposits at Huari indicates contact between the two populations at a much earlier date.

          This Epoch 1A interaction between two populations engaging in urbanization of their communities provides important insights into the developing Huari Empire of 1B. By adding to their early relations with the south coast Nasca populations, Huari’s new Epoch 1A relations with central coast populations could have expanded their range of trade thereby motivating them to exploit a larger resource area, such as the Cuzco basin in Epoch 1B.

          These highland examples of the Nievería pottery also provide evidence for seriating the Nievería style. The two Huari examples come from modeled forms where part of the vessel’s body or handle is shaped into an animal or human form. Thus, such forms may be earlier than those vessels that display fancy Chakipampa animal icons.
Figure 4 indicates my suggestion of a chronological correlation of Nievería’s modeled vessels and certain vessels shapes as earlier, perhaps pre-Middle Horizon. They may have been manufactured contemporary with some Moche IV and Nasca 7 style ceramics.

          This presentation is an analysis of new evidence for Huari state formation. The premise is that state formation is a process of increasing political control of social interaction by one polity over its neighbors in order to acquire desired resources, such as, natural resources, manufactured goods, or intellectual resources. In the Andes evidence of Huari’s social interaction is suggested by the spatial distribution of Huari style artifacts and architecture. The suggestion that such evidence denotes political control relies on whether or not Huari’s stylistic changes and occupational remains dominated those of the previous culture. Thus, political control by Huari state leaders would be supported by evidence of sudden changes in foreign styles or presence of intrusive Huari architecture and occupation. The presence only of Huari artifacts, on the other hand, could indicate that Huari leaders had allowed a foreign policy of trade with willing partners. This model of political control is supported by Dorothy Menzel’s analysis of stylistic change in south coast Ica pottery before, during and after highland Inca political control in which south coast potters began manufacturing Inca style vessels during the period of Inca political control, but reverted to previous styles once the Inca state was conquered by the Spaniards.

          The early Epoch 1A presence of a few Nievería style sherds at Huari with Chakipampa and Ocros refuse followed by the later Epoch 1B presence of fancy Chakipampa animal icons on Nievería pottery indicates a rather long and rather peaceful coexistence between the two areas. What is important to note is that the modeling in the Nievería pottery appears quire suddenly on the central coast with new shapes and designs not similar to the previous Lima style pottery. Representational forms both modeled and painted dominate the pottery. Such modeling is uncommon for Huari potters with the exception of the rather limited Robles Moqo style vessels from Pacheco in Epoch 1B, but is extremely common to Moche potters. Thus the Nievería population may have had strong ties to the northern Moche culture or consisted of some foreign immigrants. The established presence at Cajamarquilla on the central coast would have been pivotal for allowing north and south coast interaction and eventual Huari and Moche interaction. Some examples of Huari and Moche interaction are several double spout, bridge handled jars with polychrome painting (i.e., Huari norteño) and a small Moche V jar with a chevron band (Figure 5). These examples again suggest an Epoch 1B development of Huari’s expanding presence.

          In conclusion the Huari polity was quick to establish foreign relations soon after initial contact among Huarpa and Nasca Phase 7 cultural groups at the end of the Early Intermediate Period. With regard to the Nasca phase 8 culture, south coast populations were experiencing a social decline that was revived by the increasing interaction with the highland Huari population identified with Chakipampa A and Ocros pottery manufacture. At the same time this highland population also made early contact with a newly established central coast polity at Cajamarquilla. I hypothesize that if the Cajamarquilla residents had strong ties with the north coast and, therefore, culturally and socially knowledgeable of Moche politics and economics, then early Huari contact may have provided Huari leaders with the model or example of how to organize a labor and possibly a military system. Also, the development of such coastal ties may have allowed the Huari to develop an economic basis of trade during epoch 1B that required that they organize their labor forces to exploit surrounding highland resources. Thus they could begin to colonize areas such as Pikillaqta and Moquegua and by late 1B could trade with the far north highland polity of Cajamarca.


Gayton, Anna H.
1927 The Uhle collections from Nievería. In: University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, edited by A. L. Kroeber and R. H. Lowie, pp. 305-329. UC Press, Berkeley.

Menzel, Dorothy
1964 Style and time in the Middle Horizon. Ñawpa Pacha 2:1-105.