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Contrasting Architecture: Intended Use

The Oroncota complex measured 6 ha, whereas the Cuzcotuyo fortification at the frontier margin measured nearly 5 ha. Both centers were largely composed of standard Inka architectural units: multipurpose kal- lankas, plazas, kanchas, and storage qolqas. Located within the frontier zone, the Oroncota complex was a small provincial center built with fine Inka masonry that had spaces dedicated to public activities. Defense and storage were delegated to ancillary facilities. In contrast, Cuzcotuyo, on the frontier edge, was a multifunctional military garrison. Its architecture emphasized defensive concerns and, compared to the Oroncota complex, was less elaborate. The main building was protected by a long defensive wall on the mountaintop, supplemented by a system of outlooks and semiwalled hills along the weakest flanks.

With regard to investment, the Oroncota complex had fine Inka architecture and exhibited carefully smoothed blocks of stone. Some sections displayed elegant double and triple body-size jamb niches, features usually found in status installations of the imperial core. This indicates that its intended role was not simply to serve the local administrative needs but also to physically materialize the imperial power in such a distant region. Yet its elaborate architecture stands in contrast with the near absence of imperial materials in the zone. This situation can be explained in two ways. This might suggest a state strategy of using fine architecture as a statement of power, perhaps intended to compensate for an indirect form of control (Alconini 2008a). Alternatively, the targeted architectural investment of this complex might represent the unfulfilled ambitions of the state or the competing royal panaca lineages in the region. Despite the initial intention, it might have not been possible to establish a more consistent imperial presence due to an internal crisis or the disruption occasioned by the Spanish conquest. Whatever the specific circumstances, Oroncota was an important, although relatively small, administrative center in the regional state politics. In contrast, the Cuzcotuyo stronghold was constructed in the more common intermediate style and located in a territory of low population density.

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