Research of Wari in the upper Moqugeua drainage has involved Peruvian and North American scholars for nearly three decades. Reportedly, Gary Vecelius excavated a test unit (~2 by 3 m) on the summit of Cerro Mejía, however at the time the site's cultural affiliations were unknown. Later collaborators affiliated with Programma Contisuyo conducted informal survey in the region of Torata and made preliminary reports in a number of formats (e.g. references). Because of its location some early researchers thought Cerro Baúl was a Tiwanku fortress, however visits from researchers familiar with the Wari heartland identified the associated artifacts as Wari (see Lumbreras et al. 1982). Robert Feldman's excavations in 1989 confirmed that Cerro Baúl was indeed affiliated with Wari. Moseley and Feldman described the Wari presence in Moquegua as a site unit intrusion and suggested that Moquegua might represent the furthest southern expansion of the Wari Empire (Feldman 1989; Moseley et al. 1991). The current program of research builds on these early foundations. Each season of research is briefly described below with links to more detailed information and publications resulting from each season. Summary information for a variety of topics can also be accessed using the sidebar.
In 1993, Michael Moseley, Robert Feldman, Johny Isla, and Ryan Williams mapped the surface remains on Cerro Baúl. The map they produced still forms the foundation of our present understanding of the layout of the site. Nevertheless the rock fall is very deep in some areas and excavations show that at times the surface remains can be misleading. The present map is only a guess at the arrangement of buildings on the summit of Baúl.
The following year, over the course of the summer field season I studied the surface remains and made a sketch map of Cerro Petroglifo (AKA Cerro Sin Basura). In three days Ryan Williams and myself shot more than 1200 points documenting the architectural remains. For my master's thesis I examined the spatial patterns of the site, the means of its construction, and its relationship to the other site's in the colony as well as environmental conditions. It appears the site was never completed because building stone was piled in the western part of the hill, whereas stones marking the corners and subdivisions of larger spaces were visible in empty spaces on the extreme eastern end of the hill.
In 1995 and 1996 I assisted Ryan Williams with his doctoral research, from which I gained a regional perspective. Moquegua from coast to puna has a number of vital resources and produces a wide variety of food stuffs in the vertically stacked ecological niches. Irrigation technology was an important determining factor in Wari colonization of the region. The Wari selected the tributary with the most water and an extensive canal system on the southern side of the river. Settlements were placed on hill tops and ridges overlooking the river and to the south on the other side of the canal (see 2006 Torata survey for more details).
Excavations in 1997 started small with four units in two different sectors of the site. I worked in sector C unit 3, and Gian Carlo Marconi excavated unit 6. Ryan Williams, Johny Isla, and Liz Klarich worked in two different structures of Sector B: Unit 5 the D-shaped structure and Unit 1, the brewery. Further information on this season of research can be found in Publications.
In 1998 a number of research activities came together that would set the stage for later investigations. I worked on mapping the residential remains on the slopes of Cerro Mejía and Cerro Baúl, which included the residential remains identified as Sector G, El Tenedor, and the Baúl access path. On Cerro Baúl I excavated a small probe on the access path to gain a sense of the preservation and excavation requirements needed to work with the areas of modest residential remains. I also started a unit adjacent to Feldman's 1989—Unit 2 on the summit of Cerro Baúl, which turned out to be a sizable midden on a lower terrace north of the palace in Sector A.
Household Archaeology on Cerro Mejía started in 1999 and continued in 2000. The project opened more than 200 square meters, including 10 household units and 7 different buildings. This work revealed interesting patterns and essentially introduced new questions that remain primary to the current program of research. I examined the activities and resources available to the different residents and noticed that from house to house there was little consistency in the material culture in use. Initially I thought these distinctions might be related to class or occupational difference but later realized they might be attributed to ethnic differences between neighborhoods. I returned to these questions in 2008.
In 2001 and 2002 a number of structures were excavated on Cerro Baúl as part of an NSF funded project directed by Ryan Williams and Michael Moseley. I supervised the excavation of Unit 9, a Wari patio group and other components of an elite residential complex in Sector A. My goal was to compare an elite residence from Cerro Baúl with my sample of households from Cerro Mejía, however so many materials were recovered analysis at the same level of detail was not feasible at that time (see Publications for recent comparisons of the data). Given the expected size of the complex further work was needed to understand the activities taking place within this larger residential complex.
In 2004 excavations on Cerro Baúl were to examine the possible locales where Wari and Tiwanaku may have interacted. Areas of the elite residential compound, brewery and D-shaped temple complex in Sector C were targeted. In Sector A areas were opened to the west of Unit 9 (the Wari patio group) revealing a ceramic workshop (40A) and garden space (40C). 40B was a narrow corridor that lead from the entrance hall to 40E, which we excavated in 2007 (see Houses for a complete layout of the elite residence in Sector A).
2005 was a season devoted to several types of lab analyses. In particular, an effort was made to examine materials from both Cerro Baúl and Cerro Mejía in the hopes of defining a typology for different artifact types. Nevertheless, what became apparent was the big differences between Cerro Baúl and Cerro Mejía when it came to common domestic goods. It was decided that a larger sample was needed from Cerro Mejía to understand why there was such a diversity of materials found at the site and why there were few similarities between Mejía and Baúl.
In 2006 with funding from the Curtiss T. and Mary G. Brennan Foundation I conducted a survey with the help of Kasia Szremski and Lindsey Realmoto. Using Bruce Owen's (1996) systematic survey of Torata we visited sites located near the projected course of the Wari canal. Since we found so few decorated Wari sherds on Cerro Mejía I suspected that smaller Wari affiliated sites may have no decorated sherds on the surface and would not be identified as Middle Horizon occupations during the survey. Using architectural style, plainware pottery, and the presence of obsidian we believe we have identified ten small sites with materials similar to those on Cerro Mejía. Future test excavation and radiocarbon dating will be needed to verify the sites' affiliation. During the survey I also noted important technological differences in canal construction between the Wari system and the later Estuquiña systems.
In 2007, we returned to Cerro Baúl. With a grant from the Howard Heinz Endowment for Latin American Archaeology I returned to the elite residential complex or "palace" in Sector A to learn more about the ceramic production taking place in the open patios between the entrance hall and Unit 9 (the Wari patio group). I did not uncover an area where vessels were fired however, I did find an area were a sparkly-mica rich rock was being ground into temper and small pits filled with three different colors of mineral pigment. We also found the path through the palace that connected the entrance hall to Unit 9 and took an overhead photo mosaic of the entire palace complex.
The following year I shifted back to work on Cerro Mejía. The results from excavation in 1999 and 2000 uncovered a very diverse assemblage and since that time I had wondered what might account for the material variety we encountered. In 2008 we excavated two medium sized houses in barrio 4A on the southern slope of Cerro Mejía. It was our goal to enlarge the household sample in order to have a larger sample from which to conduct comprehensive analysis and gain a better understanding of the differences between the neighborhoods and houses within each neighborhood. I expected to have to log a great deal of lab and library time to tie any one neighbor hood to the origin of the people who colonized Cerro Mejía, however during the excavation we found the equivalent of a smoking gun. The project co-director, Monika Barrionuevo encountered a placa pintada in unit 17. It had been placed above a tomb beneath the latest floor surface.
In 2009 we continued work on Cerro Mejía in barrio 3. each house fit within a 10 by 12 meter grid and were located close to one another so that we might examine the spaces between houses. Unfortunately the houses in this area of Mejía’s slope were more deeply buried than usual and excavation progressed slowly. Nevertheless once we reached the use surfaces we learned that both houses had more obsidian than we typically find with the wide diversity of cherts and substantial amount of obsidian debitage suggesting that people occupying Unit 19 were possibly specialists in the working of stone.
During excavations in 2008 and 2009 we recovered materials from four houses. These materials were analyzed in 2010. Unfortunately we recovered few ceramic remains and still do not have a sufficient sample of pottery to understand the production and use of vessels on Cerro Mejía. Nevertheless, patterns of house design and construction, as well as the assemblages associated with each structure give us a clear picture of how activities and material culture varied from house to house.