Archaeology Sheds Further Light on Inca Predecessors: a useful compliment to history

An archaeological site under investigation in a Lima suburb since 1981 has yielded an interesting find. The mummified bodies of an adult and child have been excavated in what archaeologists believe is evidence of a Huari burial ritual.

Amidst the high-rises of modern Lima, the Huaca Pucllana site continues to yield evidence of Huari culture
Amidst the high-rises of modern Lima, the Huaca Pucllana site continues to yield evidence of Huari culture

The Huari (Wari) culture flourished along the seaboard of what is now modern-day Peru between approximately 500 and 900AD before experiencing a rapid decline reminiscent of the demise of many other pre-Columbian civilizations.

Like their Inca successors, the Huari are not believed to have had a written language. Whether the Huari used quipu Рan intricate recording and census-taking system using strands of llama hair Рas the Inca did remains to be seen, yet cultural similarities between the two Peruvian civilizations are emerging thanks to archaeology.

For instance, mummification played an important role in Inca culture. Rulers (the Sapa Inca) would be mummified and preserved after death, as sometimes would be important noblemen, religious figures and warriors. During their burials, these important figures would often be accompanied by sacrificed, mummified children as an offering to the Gods. The prevalence of mummification in pre-Columbian Andean society is emphasised by the Huari finds and suggests the Inca adopted some of the traits of their predecessors.

A mummified Inca child - like their Huari predecessors, the Inca sacrificed children as an offering of the utmost purity to the Gods
A mummified Inca child – like their Huari predecessors, the Inca sacrificed children as an offering of the utmost purity to the Gods

Other archaeological sites are similarly illuminating. The Huari Ruins, the presumed site of the former Huari capital, provide evidence of a sophisticated and keenly-planned city development aligned to the local topography. As the Spaniards would find when entering Cuzco in 1433, the Inca would adopt similar methods. Likewise, there is evidence that the Huari whitewashed their walls with plaster, another technique practiced by the Inca to protect their buildings.

In the absence of indigenous written languages, historians of pre-Columbian civilizations have often been reliant on the works of the Spanish chroniclers of the sixteenth century. Often based on poorly-translated indigenous stories and highly-subjective anecdotal evidence, these works are fascinating and potentially rich sources of historical information. Yet they cannot be deemed as comprehensive or, necessarily, completely accurate, and archaeology can aid in filling in the historical gaps.

The Huari Ruins provide an insight into the sophisticated town planning of the Andean civilizations
The Huari Ruins provide an insight into the sophisticated town planning of the Andean civilizations

Whilst archaeology is by its nature interpretive and subjective, it should not be ignored by mainstream historians, many of whom question the validity of archaeological findings. The Huari excavations over the past few decades have revealed remarkable influences on the later Inca Empire and have offered an indication of the continuity between the Andean civilizations. This is particularly important, as it is often assumed than rising empires would suppress the cultures of their predecessors as a means of asserting control.

Restricting ourselves to written, archival evidence alone is simply not sufficient.

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Orban Stirs Domestic Tensions on Historic Day

Yesterday saw the traditional commemorations of the anniversary of the 1956 uprising that mutated into the Hungarian Revolution. A popular revolution against the communist government of the time, it ended on the 10th November after a brutal crackdown by Soviet troops seeking to preserve the government of their client state.

Commemorating the revolutionaries of 1956
Commemorating the revolutionaries of 1956

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban used the memorial as a platform of dissent against his political opponents, both domestic and foreign. He compared his domestic opponents with the Hungarian communist conspirators who aided the Soviets in destroying the momentum of the revolution; he accused foreign politicians and economic institutions of acting like the Soviet ‘imperialists’, intervening in Hungary’s domestic affairs.

Orban is an increasingly-controversial figure and he has used a parliamentary majority to enact sweeping reforms, which strengthen his own power at the expense of democratic rights and civil liberties. Indeed, his rule has become reminiscent of the Soviet dictatorships of the past that he supposedly abhors.

The selfish politicking of Orban threatens to overshadow the commemoration of one of the most important historical events of the 20th century. For many people worldwide, the Soviet Union’s heavy-handed response to the Hungarian Revolution once-and-for-all shattered the moral legitimacy of the communist state and tilted the balance of diplomatic power in favour of the US during the Cold War.

Orban’s use of history to smear his opponents is likely to backfire. It is he that is most comparable to the dark days of Soviet dominance and he increasingly resembles the post-Cold War ‘strongman’ of Central Asia, only without the economic achievements to boot.

Despite increasing domestic and foreign concerns, Orban retains widespread support
Despite increasing domestic and foreign concerns, Orban retains widespread support

Unsurprisingly, the rally led by Orban was countered by those on the left of the political spectrum, who called for his removal, and by the far-right Jobbik party whose leaders believe the Hungarian political system to be riddled with the remnants of the country’s socialist past and thus unable to represent the “true Hungarian” people.

None of the political parties have covered themselves in glory by using the 1956 revolution memorials as a staging post for vicious sniping against enemies. Yet, worryingly, it is Viktor Orban who continues to prove himself a dangerous and paranoid demagogue, more concerned with his own power status than the principles of freedom expressed by the revolutionaries over half-a-century ago.