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Interaction with the Eastern Tropics: Distribution of Chiriguano and Lowland Materials

The spread of ceramics and associated materials from the eastern tropics also provides insights into local interactions with tropical lowland populations before and after the Inka conquest. This information is also useful to assess the effects of the Guarani-Chiriguano invasions on the lives of the local Yampara residents. Two hypotheses can be drawn. In a scenario of invasion from the eastern tropics, Guarani-Chiriguano ceramics would be most common in the eastern portion of the survey area. In addition, the associated sites should date to the Late Yampara-Inka period. Alternatively, in a scenario of broad acculturation, or adoption of lowland styles, we would expect Chiriguano and tropical wares to be widely distributed across sites, even in pre-Inka periods.

The analysis unveiled the absence of Guarani style ceramics in the entire Oroncota region, either in the surface collections or excavations. Nor have Guarani-related ceramics been reported in any of the adjacent valleys, such as Icla or Camargo (Janusek et al. 1993-1996; Janusek 2008; Rivera Casanovas 2003, 2004). This suggests that the Guarani-Chiriguanos did not settle or even stay in the region for consistent periods. Rather, these incursions took the form of quick raids. Furthermore, it is also likely that in their intrusions, the Guarani-Chiriguanos did not carry large or breakable pottery vessels with them. This situation also signals the limited trade that the local residents had with Guarani groups. An additional possibility that cannot be discarded is the less than isomorphic relationship between material patterns and ethnic identity.

At any rate, other ceramic assemblages indicate complex forms of interaction that southern valley polities maintained with those in the eastern tropics. This is the case of the Thick Rims, Incised and Stamped pottery tradition that had a wide distribution in the meridional valleys, the eastern tropical piedmont, Chaco, and Chiquitania (Alconini and Rivera 2003; Lima Torrez 2000, 2008; Portugal Loayza 2008; Prumers and Winkler 1997; Prumers et al. 2002). In fact, it relates to early lowland populations dwelling since the Formative era, and well before the Guarani-Chiriguanos (Pereira Herrera and Brockington 2005; Ryden 1956). This pottery usually took the form of large jars with thick, folded rims decorated with incisions, zigzagging designs, modeled elongated eyes, and stamped motifs using textiles and corncobs. They were often used as funerary urns

Thick Rims, Incised and Stamped pottery style. Its distribution extends over the Chaco, southern Bolivian valleys and highlands, and part of the tropical savannas in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Figure 4.26. Thick Rims, Incised and Stamped pottery style. Its distribution extends over the Chaco, southern Bolivian valleys and highlands, and part of the tropical savannas in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Proportion of settlements with Thick Rims, Incised and Stamped pottery by site function (Oroncota region)

Figure 4.27. Proportion of settlements with Thick Rims, Incised and Stamped pottery by site function (Oroncota region).

covered with lids, a common practice among tropical populations. This pottery tradition seems to originate in the southern Chaco or humid Yunga tropics, although adjacent valley and highland polities actively used and reproduced them. This situation indicates fluid processes of social interaction, common cultural beliefs, and wide exchange patterns (Alconini 2008c; Alconini and Rivera 2003).

In the Oroncota Valley, this ceramic tradition was extensively distributed in the settlements (Figure 4.26). Of the total sites recorded in the survey (n=308), more than a fourth possessed fragments of this ceramic tradition. They were evenly distributed in the Valley and Plateau zones. In terms of time span, ceramics of this tradition were amply spread across sites from different periods, albeit they were more common in the earlier settlements (Figure 4.27). In the Colonial era, a drastic change occurred since they fell into disuse.

What kinds of sites were associated with the use of these large containers over such a consistent period of time? Based on the available data, we know that they were common in residential sites, particularly in large villages and regional centers (Figure 4.28). This emphasis suggests that these containers were important in a range of domestic and public activities. They might have served as mortuary urns or even as bulky storage

vessels (Bennet 1936; Nordenskiold 1924).2 Walter (1962, 1966), for example, exhumed a number of burials in funerary urns from this tradition in the Yampara center of Icla-Chullpamoko. Likewise, I found similar burial urns during my excavations of Yoroma (Alconini 2008b, 2010). There, ceramics of this tradition exhibited decorative features found in one of the Yampara styles (Oroncota White Ware), materialized in the use of a thick white slip.

To recapitulate, Thick Rims, Incised and Stamped pottery had a scattered distribution throughout the Valley floor and Plateau zones. It was also present in sites from different periods, particularly in large villages. Since the use of this tradition started before the Inka arrived, it is likely that earlier processes of social and economic interaction with lowland tropical polities were already in place. What started as an exchange network of selected goods might have later culminated in the assimilation of broader practices related to the dead.

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