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José Alcina Franch

Pre-Columbian city that flourished c. ad 1450–1540, 28 km (by road) north of Cuzco, Peru; excavated by José Alcina between 1968 and 1970. The town centre is on a high plateau, 3720 m above sea level, near Lake Piuray on the old road from Cuzco to the Yucay Valley. Chinchero was ‘founded’ as an Inca imperial city at the beginning of the reign of Tupac Inca Yupanqui (reg ad 1471–93) and became the country residence of his panaka (lineage group). The proximity of Cuzco—15 km by the Inca road—meant that the architecture of Chinchero was heavily influenced by the imperial Inca style (see also South America, Pre-Columbian, §III, 2, (iii)).

The urban nature of the site is evident not only from the size and quality of its buildings but also from the way they are sited. There was an internal communication system and also a drainage system that catered for the whole area, ensuring the draining of all residual waters into the ravine adjacent to the site. The city-plan can be divided into three sectors: a residential and administrative sector, a religious sector and an agricultural sector. The first two evolved around two squares, that of the present village and the ...



Ann Kendall

A Pre-Columbian culture of the Central Andean area of South America, the early Inka people are recognizable in the archaeological record of the Late Intermediate Period (c. 1000–1476 CE) from the 12th century onward. The Inka empire flourished in the 15th century and early 16th. In a more restricted sense the term refers to the ruling elite and its supreme head, the Sapa Inka (“Unique Inka”). The Inka are alone in having successfully politically unified the vast area of the Central Andes, coastlands, and adjacent regions. Their empire, the largest indigenous state in the history of the Americas, endured for approximately 100 years; it extended 4000 km from northwest to southeast and approximately 320 km inland from the South American coast (see fig.). The Inka and subjected populations engaged primarily in agriculture and pastoralism. There are widely differing estimates of the total population of Inka and subject peoples at the time of the Spanish arrival in ...


Peter W. Stahl

Island and adjacent mainland areas around the Gulf of Guayaquil in south coastal Ecuador, important in Pre-Columbian trade. The region was inhabited by the Punáes, who were possibly confederated with ethnically similar littoral groups into a Pre-Columbian league of merchants. A principal article of commerce was the shell of the venerated Pacific thorny oyster Spondylus (Quechua: mullu), traded for millennia over vast distances. Long-distance trade was conducted by means of ocean-going balsa rafts equipped with sails and oars and steered by centreboards. A possible form of Pre-Columbian currency consisting of small, thin, hammered copper sheets with flanged edges occurs throughout the area.

Political authority was held by seven caciques (leaders), including a paramount leader. The death of a cacique was honoured by interment in a large tomb with rich grave goods. The Punáes were never successfully incorporated into the Inca domain, which ended at a fortress on the mainland coast at Túmbes, approximately 77 km to the south-west. Early Spanish explorers describe the Punáes as able mariners, skilled ship builders, and fierce warriors, and Spanish descriptions of metal vessels and armaments attest to their skill as metalsmiths. Their weapons included bows and arrows, lances, clubs, slings, and metal axes. Documents of the colonial period describe the Punáes as fishermen and pilots for the Spanish port of Guayaquil....


John S. Isaacson and Trent Barnes

[Pucará ; de Lulumbamba]

Military installation (and possibly ceremonial centre) of the Pre-Columbian Inca period in Pinchincha Province, Ecuador. It is sited on a small hill at the confluence of two streams draining into the Río Guayllabamba, a few kilometres to the north. Although the site was severely damaged through centuries of looting for building materials, careful excavation and reconstruction (Almeida and Jara) have provided significant information about the architecture and occupational history at the site. There has been speculation that the site was constructed prior to the arrival of the Inca in northern Ecuador. However, excavation produced no evidence of pre-Inca occupation. All artefacts in the local ‘Caranqui’ style were found in contexts that also produced Inca artefacts, suggesting that the Pucará de Rumicucho was constructed and occupied during the Late Horizon (1476–1534), between c. ad 1500 and c. 1534 (see Inca). The Pucará de Rumicucho differs in significant ways from most forts in the highlands of the northern Andes. These were generally built on an easily defensible site, usually a hilltop, and were often equipped with retaining walls and rooms to house military personnel. The excavation of these sites has produced few artefacts other than ceramic fragments and rare finds of weapons. The Pucará de Rumicucho’s accessible location, only 24 m above the valley floor, and evidence for the occurrence of a wide variety of activities suggest that it was not a defensive fort. The site has been interpreted as an offensive staging area for military campaigns to the north (Almeida and Jara). Its situation close to the equator and the presence of circular structures—associated at other Inca sites with religious and astronomical activities—suggest that it may also have functioned as a ceremonial and astronomical centre....



Warwick Bray and Trent Barnes

Archaeological zone and style of metalwork produced in the three great 16th-century chiefdoms of Fincenú, Pancenú, and Cenúfana in the Caribbean lowlands of Colombia during the millennium before the Spanish Conquest. The Sinú style also extended to the San Jorge Basin and the lower Cauca and Nechí drainages. Many of these lowland areas are seasonally flooded but were turned into prime farmland by the construction of more than 500,000 ha of ridged and drained fields linked by a canal network. Besides landscape architecture, the Sinú zone is noted for its goldwork (see fig.). Burial mounds, looted from Colonial times to the present, have yielded bells, human, and animal pendants, breastplates, nose ornaments, fan-shaped dangling ear ornaments produced by the ‘false filigree’ technique (see South America, Pre-Columbian, §VIII, 5), and socketed staff heads surmounted by human figures, animals, or birds. With these are found incised and modelled pottery, shell jewellery, clay figurines, and fine textile fragments. The origins of the Sinú style go back to the early centuries ...