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Finding Early Settlements: Some Considerations

Considering the absence of a cultural sequence for the Khosko Toro region, a chronology based on my excavations and radiocarbon dating in Cuzcotuyo was devised. As discussed in more depth in the following chapter, there were two main cultural periods (see also Alconini 2013, 2015). The first Early Manchachi Slate on Red period (?-A.D. 1480) was characterized by the use of local ceramics with slate as temper and red slip on the surfaces. The most characteristic shapes included globular and open bowls (Table 6.1). Technologically, this style is related to western valley traditions, particularly considering the use of slate as temper. The second phase, the Late Parapeti Ungulate period (A.D. 1480-1536), marked the Inka arrival and saw an increase of Guarani-Chiriguano pottery. However, local Manchachi pottery from the earlier period was still used. As elsewhere, Guarani-Chiriguano ceramics were characterized by the consistent presence of crushed sherds as temper, including a morphological repertoire with plates, jars, cooking pots, and carinated funerary urns. In addition to the widespread use of brushed and corrugated surfaces, these vessels were often decorated with plastic geometric designs like punctuations, incisions, fingernail imprints, and stamped designs (Brochado Proenza 1984; Jacome et al. 2010; La Salvia and Brochado 1989; Oliveira 2008; Prous 2010). However, we did not find the painted Guarani variant.

The regional survey comprised an area of 80 km2 around the main Inka complex of Cuzcotuyo. Whenever possible, the pedestrian survey was

Table 6.1. Site distribution during the pre-Inka Manchachi Slate on Red period (?-A.D. 1480) and Inka Period (A.D. 1480-1636) in the Khosko Toro region


Area (km2)

Number of pre-Inka sites

Number of Inka sites

1. Eastern shrubby low piedmonts (monte bajo)




2. Eastern canopied mountains (monte alto)




3. Western shrubby piedmonts with patches of high-density forest




4. Western Pucara plains








full-coverage in scope. Due to the sheer cliffs and extremely thick vegetation, we excluded the eastern canopy forest in the upper mountain flanks (Figure 6.1). Its relative inaccessibility might have also prevented early populations from settling in this area. In fact, ethnohistorical sources state that this zone (locally known as monte alto, or black forest) was not used for residence but mainly for hunting and plant gathering (Susnick 1982:24).

Research on the Guarani elsewhere has revealed that to take advantage of aquatic resources and fertile soil, Guarani villages were often built on smooth alluvial elevations near major rivers and along interfluvial areas. These villages had a diameter averaging 50-250 m and were composed of several long houses organized around the main open plaza (Mineiro Scatamacchia and Moscoso 1989; Panachuk et al. 2010; Susnik 1968, 1982). These structures, also known as malocas, were multifamily constructions made with organic materials and used for carrying out a set of communal activities. Since Guarani populations usually had a relatively mobile settlement pattern based on shifting agriculture, these villages were occupied for a number of years, to be later abandoned. This pattern is in stark contrast with the ring villages of the Amazon’s terra preta and varzea, occupied over much longer time periods (Neves 2008; Petersen et al. 2001; Wust and Barreto 1999).

Because of the villages’ limited occupation, the remains of Guarani villages are hardly visible on the surface. In excavations, they can only be identified by the presence of dark patches of soil, postholes, and the scattered concentration of sherds and lithic fragments. They are often the remains of disintegrated organic material used in house construction, including wooden poles and palm leaves for the walls and roof. These settlements often have a single occupation and a cultural deposit of less than 50 cm (Mineiro Scatamacchia and Moscoso 1989). Taking into account that we conducted auger perforations at intervals of 30-50 m in habitable areas, we believed that we had a good chance of finding them.

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