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Architectural Layout of the Oroncota Inka Complex

The Oroncota building complex exhibits elaborate stone masonry with cut and smoothed blocks of red sandstone. Using Niles’s classification (1987b), it fits the prestigious style. The stone blocks have regular rectangular shapes, with slightly sunken joints. They were usually fitted or accommodated on two coursed thick walls, but in some sections one can still see the use of cobblestones in the fill. Taking into account how the blocks were arranged in the walls, this style of masonry is also known as almohadillado en perfil (Augurto Calvo 1987:171), or “pillowed-face” stonework (Protzen and Nair 1997:166). In fact, writing on the elaborate construction quality of the Oroncota complex, John Hyslop (1990:319) notes that “parts of it [Oroncota] are of worked and fitted stone, which approximates fine Cuzco masonry.”

The construction was double coursed. However, in some areas the walls were even wider, varying from two to five courses (40-100 cm). Often, such wide walls were common in important and prestigious installations, as they usually correlated with the use of double and triple jambs (Niles 1987b). In fact, in the Oroncota complex thick wall segments were found in combination with double and triple jambs. They were particularly important in the group of rooms adjacent to the southwestern portion of the plaza (Figure 5.3). These elaborate rooms also had oversized body-size niches that were large enough to hold a person. Therefore, the combination of these features, including the presence of sizable niches made with elaborate double and triple jambs, highlights the elevated status of this facility (Figure 5.4).

Similar enlarged double- and triple-jamb niched walls were found in high-status installations such as the Temple of Pilco Kayma in the Island of the Sun or the Aqllawasi of Koati in the Moon Island. Both were part of the sacred Inka pilgrimage center in the Titicaca region (Gasparini and Margolies 1980:262-266; Gisbert 1988:107-108) (Figure 5.2). Furthermore, oversized niched walls were also present in the Temple of Maukal- laqta in Cuzco (1991), in the Temple of Huaytara in Huancavelica, and in the royal estate of Chinchero (Gasparini and Margolies 1980:215-219, 255-261) (Figure 5.2). The fact that this kind of architecture was also present at Oroncota, a distant valley of the empire, suggests that this building was of prime importance in regional and state politics.

On a temporal scale, some of the constructions using double and triple jambs on sizable niches are often attributed to the ruler Tupac Inka Yupanqui. This is the case of Pilco Kaima, Koati, and the royal estate of Chinchero, all allegedly erected during his reign (Cobo 1993 [1582-1587]). Furthermore, he and his royal panaca family owned the estate of Chinchero (Niles 1993, 2004). Hence, if the Charcas territory was reconquered by Tupac Inka Yupanqui as described in the ethnohistoric narratives, it is likely that the Oroncota complex was built, or at least remodeled, during his administration. In light of this overview, the architectural quality of the center of Oroncota becomes evident, highlighting its unique importance in the Southern Andes. Even in the adjacent valleys, most of the Inka centers like Incarracay, Samaipata, or Inkallajta (one of the seven Cuzcos) were made in the intermediate architectural style (Gyarmati and Varga 1999; Niles 1987a, 1987b).

Detail of the Oroncota plaza building (graph also shows its western profile)

Figure 5.3. Detail of the Oroncota plaza building (graph also shows its western profile).

Architectural details of the Oroncota Inka complex on the Pucara Plateau

Figure 5.4. Architectural details of the Oroncota Inka complex on the Pucara Plateau: the isolated kallanka to the northwest of the complex (top), detail of double and triple jambs and body-size niches in the main Oroncota plaza building (Room-10) (bottom).

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