Storage qolqas were a vital element in the Inka political economy, both in the capital and the state provinces. These structures were used to store a variety of products such as food staples, textiles, sandals, and weapons (Gasparini and Margolies 1980:301). Whether circular or rectangular, storehouses conformed to a standard shape, size, and masonry, possibly to optimize accounting efforts (D’Altroy and Hastorf 1992:285; Gasparini and Margolies 1980:301; Hyslop 1990; Morris and Thompson 1985).
In the center of Oroncota, a handful of circular storage qolqa structures stood near the residential area just described. Around these qolqas was also a cluster of grinding stones (Figure 5.1). Thus, the association of grinding stones and qolqas indicates that limited food-processing and storage activities were conducted in the same locale (see also Morris 1979). Based on proximity, the Pacajes residents would have certainly supervised these facilities. Excavations in the best-preserved warehouse (Structure-3) revealed three episodes of use. We found the traces of an
Figure 5.8. Detail of a storage qolqa outside the Oroncota building complex.
occupation on top of an early floor prepared with a matrix of sand and clay. On this floor were grinding stone fragments of different shapes and sizes, in addition to a mortar. The raw material was granite, which is common in the Pilcomayo River area but absent on the Plateau. The floor also held concentrations of sherds from large, undecorated storage jars. With the disuse of the qolqa, a pit cut through the floor (Feature 8). It was filled with ash mixed with chunks of charcoal, utilitarian vessel sherds, and an isolated stone bead (Figure 5.8). Afterward, the pit was purposefully covered with a broken grinding stone. This last act might have represented a termination event, marking the abandonment of the construction.