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Colonialism, Cuisine, and Culture Contact: An Analysis of Provincial Foodways of the Wari Empire (A.D. 600 – 1000)


In this dissertation I explore the complexities of culture contact and colonialism through the lens of daily foodways to evaluate cultural interaction and entanglements between disparate cultural groups. Focusing on provincial sites of the Middle Horizon (A.D. 600 – 1000) Wari Empire in the south-central Peruvian Andes, I incorporate macrobotanical and microbotanical remains to investigate not only how food was a medium through which Wari colonists and indigenous groups negotiated the colonial encounter on the Wari frontier, but also use food to interpret the nature of the contact. Plant presence, processing and discard activities, architectural features, and artifacts associated with household structures form the basis of analysis for characterizing site foodways. This examination of plant-based food activities informed my interpretation of Wari provincial cuisine and serves as a means to evaluate how cultural negotiations were experienced by both colonizer and indigenous groups on the frontier.

A qualitative comparison of spatial patterns of archaeobotanical remains from three provincial Wari sites, including Cerro Baúl in the Moquegua Valley, Quilcapampa in the Siguas Valley, and Hatun Cotuyoc in the Lucre Basin, serves as the foundation for developing provincial Wari cuisine. Similarities and differences in the patterning of plant remains and associations between plant types, site architecture, artifacts, and space, were identified at these provincial Wari sites. Although environmental factors, interregional trade, and local colonial entanglements likely limited the production and distribution of certain plants, I argue the identified foodways shared between the sites represent a collective Wari provincial cuisine. This provincial cuisine could have produced and maintained a cohesive Wari identity on the borderlands and frontiers of the empire.

The Wari pattern of plant use at Cerro Baúl was compared to those of the local indigenous Huaracane at the site of Yahuay Alta in the Moquegua Valley to determine if foodways may have served as a medium of culture contact. The plant data suggest that upon Wari incursion into the Moquegua Valley the Wari and Huaracane communities shared food traditions. Specifically, at Yahuay Alta (Huaracane site) I recovered large quantities of molle drupes (Schinus molle), a plant I assert is a primary element of Wari provincial foodways. I argue that during this period of Wari colonization and culture contact, the Huaracane adopted the Wari practice of brewing chicha de molle. Interestingly, the identified pattern of molle use at Yahuay Alta differs from the Wari sites, suggesting the indigenous Huaracane adopted the Wari practice of brewing chicha de molle but did so on their own terms by integrating the practice into an existing set of social, economic, and political organizations.

The approach to culture contact and colonialism employed in this dissertation departs from previous studies by considering quotidian foodways as a salient element of cultural interaction in the past. From a regional perspective this research characterizes provincial foodways in the Wari Empire using the remains of daily household and public meals to further develop research of provincial identity and food production.

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