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Excavations in the Cuzcotuyo Inka Fortress

The fortification of Cuzcotuyo was the setting of complex forms of interaction between the Inka empire, the locals, and the Guaram-Chiriguano intruders. To shed light on the evolution and changes of this important frontier facility, this chapter discusses the excavations in the stronghold in order to evaluate its function, architectural layout, and range of activities carried out. Before doing so, a brief evaluation of the site’s architectural layout and composition is provided.

Architectural Layout

The Cuzcotuyo complex, with an extension of 4.7 ha, was constructed with local slab rocks (possibly limonite or lutite) from the Khosko Toro mountain (Asebey Morales 1994a, 1994b). Architecturally, the Cuzcotuyo complex fits with the intermediate style. Most walls were double coursed and had fieldstones or partially cut stones set in a matrix of clay mortar. The niches and windows had either trapezoidal or quadrangular shapes, and varied in size. Niles (1987a, 1987b) had already observed the variability in the size and location of wall niches in the Inka intermediate style, a type of architecture common in the provinces and low-status buildings.

The spatial composition of the main building followed the standard kancha type (Hyslop 1990; Moore 1996). As previously noted, it was formed by two enclosed rectangular plazas and a series of attached rooms distributed between both courtyards (Figure 7.1). Whereas the Eastern Plaza had an L-shape configuration (due to the late addition of small rooms in its southern portion), the Western Plaza was rectangular. Access to both plazas was through lateral gateways opening to the exterior. Inner entrances connected them to the closest rooms. Next to the Eastern Plaza

Detail of the Cuzcotuyo plaza building complex

Figure 7.1. Detail of the Cuzcotuyo plaza building complex.

were two rooms identical in size and layout separated by a hall (called the Twin Rooms). Behind, a row of four quadrangular rooms interconnected by inner doorways (the Line of Four Rooms) rested next to the Western Plaza. Different from the rest, this last group of aligned rooms could not be accessed from any of the plazas; instead, their access points were external.

Therefore, the selective location of the system of entrances suggests that movement in the complex was restricted and compartmentalized. Four areas can be distinguished in regard to accessibility. The Western Plaza was the most accessible considering that it had three main entry points, whereas the Eastern Plaza and one of the Twin Rooms had inner entrances in addition to one external doorway. By comparison, the Line of Four Rooms had inner doorways and two lateral exterior entries, although none opened directly to the plazas. With the later architectural expansion, two rooms were added in the Eastern Plaza and the Twin Rooms (Room-5); all interconnected by inner entries and an outer opening.

In the last phase of the Cuzcotuyo occupation, it is also noticeable that informal wall segments blocked major exterior gates. This later spatial reorganization responded to the need to further segment the space to compartmentalize activities and to reduce the number of external entrances in order to maximize protection. Architecturally, these informal walls were different from earlier constructions in that they had a rough construction (a technique known as tawqueado in Quechua). Examples of this tawqueado technique were found in the inner entrances of the Line of Four Rooms and in an exterior door of the Western Plaza.

Architecturally, the site reflected most indicators that define strongholds (see chapter 2). To summarize, Cuzcotuyo has a large lineal wall on the mountaintop supplemented by auxiliary wall segments in weak flanks. The defensive wall has interior platforms to facilitate surveillance, and there are slings and bola weapons on the surface. The architecture follows the intermediate style, and outside the main building there is a long military barrack. As expected, the site is strategically protected, and it has a low number of storage qolqas or residences. We did not find small oblique windows (or shoot-holes) on the defense wall, and there were no “baffled” gateways. Either they were destroyed or these features were more useful in high-intensity attack situations.

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