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The Regional Survey

The rocky and severe topography of the Southern Andes includes dramatic features like steep mountains, deep canyons, and turbulent rivers that run along the narrow alluvium. Despite the variegated ecology, and whenever it was possible, we conducted an intensive, full-coverage survey. This means that areas with altitudinal slopes of more than 45° of gradient were excluded. As is the case today, past populations might not have been attracted to settle in the steep, fragile mountainous terrain. Although the decision to employ an intensive survey made our fieldwork more challenging, we are confident that this strategy facilitated the identification of most of the sites. Because of the importance of the Inka imperial centers of Oroncota and Cuzcotuyo in the frontier zone, we used each installation as a central point in the survey. In an effort to record the kinds of settlements and activities within the immediate proximity, we conducted a pedestrian survey around each center in a minimum of one day of walking distance. This produced a figure of 5 km of radius from each facility, and therefore a total of approximately 80 km2 of surveyed area in each region.

Methodologically, once a site was identified in the pedestrian survey, we proceeded to record its size and geographic coordinates, and map the associated architectural remains. We also did systematic surface collections of the cultural materials on each surveyed site. The collections facilitated a comparison of the composition of the distinct material assemblages (that is, ceramics, lithics, and worked bone and metal implements) within and across sites, making possible assessments about their spatial distribution. In addition, the surface collections facilitated the identification of pre-Inka and Inka period settlements, their cultural affiliation and chronological association. At a broader scale, the temporal reconstruction of the settlement patterns across periods allowed us to understand the population dynamics, the placement of each facility in the larger settlement system, and consequently, the changes that the Inka empire generated upon its arrival.

This information was central in determining the regional settlement dynamics and assessing changes in direct association with the Inka occupation. Specifically, we explored whether sociodemographic phenomena such as settlement nucleation, village abandonment, relocation, or broader population movement into new ecologies had taken place before or after the Inka occupation. We also determined whether each Inka frontier facility was at the center of a settlement cluster or at the apex of a settlement system of small, subsidiary villages. An examination of the adjacent sites allowed for an assessment of immediate sustaining agricultural hinterlands marked by terraces and canals, and the degree of involvement of the neighboring residents in the state activities.

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