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Feasting and Frontier Celebrations

Changes in feasting practices in public spaces are important avenues to examine the politics of imperial domination, particularly in frontier situations. To recapitulate, the following features are often indicative of commensal celebrations (see also chapter 5): a concentration of remains in open plazas (or public spaces) in comparison with other areas; proportionally higher densities of ceramic remains as a proxy of intensive food consumption; plaza assemblages with large proportions of serving vessels and fewer utilitarian cooking and storing vessels; absence of craft production artifacts (that is, lithics, spindle whorls tools); diversity of decorated pottery styles; and presence of organic and bone remains as evidence of food consumption.

In the excavations conducted in the two plazas of Cuzcotuyo, we found five of the six material correlates for feasting. We did not find bone or organic remains, although this absence might be partly due to preservation problems or to a focus on the consumption of beverages. To reiterate, both plaza middens had the highest densities of ceramic remains in relation to other areas of the complex (Figure 7.16). Although there were some variations, they also had the highest diversity of ceramic styles and shapes (Figure 7.17). While the two refuse layers in the Western Plaza had ceramic assemblages dominated by wide-open serving vessels, in the midden of the Eastern Plaza there were more vessels used for storing and processing. This in turn suggests a slightly different focus in the nature of the public celebrations conducted in the plazas.

Although no Inka provincial pottery was recovered, there was a diversity of styles and decorated vessels (Figure 7.17). All this indicates that feasting and celebrations were conducted in the two precincts, and that only later in the sequence did the use of Guarani-related pottery become dominant in the public-oriented activities. This signals either the participation of Guarani-Chiriguano groups in these celebrations or the acquisition of Guarani pottery to advertise political allegiances. I argue that the Inka regional representatives cunningly employed a dual strategy of cooptation and confrontation with the eastern Guarani-Chiriguanos, partly in response to the local socioeconomic and political frontier conditions. Whereas the state armies engaged in fierce combat with outer Guarani- Chiriguano factions, in the frontier zone some of these groups were progressively incorporated through diplomacy and exchange. Considering the absence of state colonies and, instead, the presence of indigenous allies, these populations played a crucial role in the frontier defense.

A similar situation has also been documented in the southern borderland region of Pucara de Algandala (Tucuman-Argentina). In this area, the local Juries had been bribed and charged with defending the Inka imperial frontier against the invading Chiriguano and Lules (Lorandi 1980, 1988). There, the acculturation of frontier peoples through gift exchange and hospitality feasts must have been useful to promote political

affiliation and, consequently, to guarantee the formation of self-contained frontier defense points against outsiders. In light of this evidence, the sites in the Southeastern Inka frontier were not just defensive outposts but also the setting for broader processes of incorporation, trade, and alliance formation.

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