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The Southeastern Inka Frontier: Research Goals and Methodology

The central goal of this book is to understand the nature of the ancient Southeastern Inka imperial frontier and the associated socioeconomic processes. Also fundamental in the research is to examine the role that the native populations had in shaping the frontier dynamics, and how

The Charcas confederation in the Southern Andes, today’s Bolivia. Map based on D’Altroy 2002; Platt et al. 2006

Figure 2.2. The Charcas confederation in the Southern Andes, today’s Bolivia. Map based on D’Altroy 2002; Platt et al. 2006.

these groups adapted the imperial agenda for their own interests. This information is also useful to assess the difficulties that the Inka empire and its representatives faced in maintaining a sustained presence in these volatile regions, and how they were resolved. At a more general level, my aim is to explore the unexpected consequences of frontier interaction, including rebellion, cultural hybridization, and peer polity competition, among many others.

Addressing these goals required different scales of empirical analysis, which ranged from a regional scope to a more contextual level. Two regions of the Southeastern Inka frontier were compared in order to gain an understanding of its zonal nature. Whereas the valley of Oroncota was situated to the west of the rugged Andean Cordillera Oriental as the inner frontier portion, the Khosko Toro mountain was situated in the eastern limits (Figure 2.2). Each region was part of a slice of the Southeastern Inka frontier, providing a unique opportunity to assess the spatial changes of the frontier and the associated activities.

While in the field between 1998 and 2002, we painstakingly gathered archaeological information to evaluate the effects of the imperial frontier in the indigenous settlement dynamics, the shifting functions of the main Inka installations as a response to varying political conditions, and the different sets of activities conducted in the main Inka frontier installations. We also explored the ways in which Inka and indigenous cultural materials were used and manipulated by the distinct social segments. Gathering such information required multiple scales of analysis at the regional, site, and contextual levels, supplemented by meticulous analysis of the architecture and associated cultural assemblages.

Altogether, this information was useful to assess the configuration of Southeastern Inka borderlands in light of the research goals. It also provided an opportunity to examine the different frontier configurations using the continuum model discussed in chapter 1. In a spectrum of hardened to more open frontiers, and with intermediate variations such as those more restrictive and porous in nature, this study has revealed that ancient frontiers were not simple territorial lines or dividing boundaries separating peoples and cultural traditions. Perhaps in contrast to existing misconceptions, frontiers like those of the Inka empire were broad zones of interaction that generated complex sociopolitical processes that differed in nature from those occurring in the imperial core, providing their residents—whether native or newcomers—with the opportunity to pursue their own agendas while adapting to the new frontier life.

 
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