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This book seeks to understand the range of socioeconomic processes that took place in the ancient Southeastern Inka frontier and the agency of the frontier populations in those situations. This information is invaluable for assessing how Inka imperial institutions and practices were adapted to volatile frontier areas and their effects on the lives of the border residents.

Often, the study of ancient empires tends to favor core-centered perspectives, assuming that the political dynamics of the capitals and adjacent areas can be extrapolated to the more distant provinces and borderlands. As occurs today, ancient empires were multifaceted political formations that produced a complex tapestry of cultural traditions, languages, and geographies governed by a distant cosmopolitan capital as the idealized axis mundi. Empires often reached a subcontinental scale. As a consequence, the challenge of maintaining authority in such a disparate landscape prompted the state administrators to export a set of imperial institutions and practices to the more distant regions to ease the natives’ cultural integration. As discussed in this book, this process produced unexpected consequences, including complex processes of cultural entanglement, hybridization, and the alteration of imperial institutions and practices to very localized circumstances.

This book is divided into eight chapters. Chapter 1 explores how perceptions of the nature of ancient imperial frontiers differ, including a brief theoretical overview of the different kinds of ancient imperial frontiers across a spectrum of possibilities. This chapter is valuable for those scholars studying ancient imperialism and the associated socioeconomic processes that took place in frontier settings, as well as the importance of these studies in a cross-cultural framework.

Chapter 2 focuses on the Inka, offering a discussion of the relevant state institutions and practices that made possible the Inka imperial expansion, as well as the goals and main components of the research design. The two regions selected for this study encompassed the Valley of Oroncota within the frontier and the Khosko Toro mountain at the margin. In chapter 3, relevant ethnohistorical accounts that describe the Inka conquest and the indigenous frontier inhabitants in the region are provided to contextualize this investigation. This chapter also examines the economic and ideological motivations that prompted the Guarani-Chiriguano invasion, as well as the reactions of the indigenous polities to those events. The following chapters of the book are dedicated to presenting the results of the investigation. Chapters 4 and 5 are devoted to the Oroncota region. Chapter 4 takes a regional scope with a discussion of the changes in the broader settlement dynamics and the effects of the Inka conquest on those processes. Trade patterns and indigenous agricultural practices are also examined, particularly in consideration of the broader demographic shifts. Chapter 5 focuses on the excavations conducted in the main Oroncota Inka complex, also known as Inkarry. After a brief discussion of Inka architectural styles, this chapter examines the variations of the cultural assemblages in the center’s main plaza, the adjacent kallankas, and the set of elaborate rooms. An assessment of the artifacts and activity areas outside the building, like the storage and residential areas, is also provided. The goal was to understand the scale of the different activities carried on at this center, the facility’s functional changes, and the residents’ identity.

Chapters 6 and 7 are devoted to Khosko Toro, the second study region in the frontier margin. Using a regional scale perspective, chapter 6 starts with a brief overview of the ecology and then examines the settlement dynamics and effects of the Inka conquest. In light of these changes, the spatial distribution of the Inka defensive facilities and cultural materials is explored, as well as the agrarian practices and regional storage capacity. Supplementing this information, chapter 7 presents the results of my excavations in the fortification of Cuzcotuyo, the site described in the ethnohistoric narratives as one of the last defense bastions against the intruding Guarani-Chiriguanos. The goal was to discern the nature and scale of the different activities conducted at the site in light of the cultural materials and associated features.

Chapter 8 draws conclusions about the dynamics of the Southeastern Inka frontier. Thus, this chapter compares the similarities and differences of both regions in regard to architectural investment and configuration, site function, and scale of activities. This information is also used to assess the configuration of the Southeastern Inka frontier in relation to existing imperial frontier models, and the role of native populations in the frontier dynamics.

This last chapter also offers a comparative section where broader aspects of the Inka frontier organizational structure are explored. This comparison is not exhaustive in view of the current state of research elsewhere, but, rather, a baseline for future comparative work. Only through a deeper, cross-regional understanding of the multifaceted socioeconomic processes that transpired in the different Inka frontier regions can we elucidate the mechanics of this remarkable empire and the associated effects on the lives of the indigenous populations.

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