Regional-Scale Settlement Shifts, Population Pressure, and Agriculture

In a surveyed area of approximately 80 km2 around the main Inka complex of Oroncota, we recorded a total of 308 archaeological sites. This work proved quite demanding given the topography, yet the results were extremely rewarding. We documented a wide variation of settlements along the occupational sequence, ranging in size from 10 m2 to 15 ha (Figure 4.7). At the apex of this distribution, four indigenous centers (2-15 ha) stood out; they contained groups of stone residential compounds, public spaces like plazas, and supplementary storage facilities. Below were

Distribution of settlements by size and function in the Oroncota region

Figure 4.7. Distribution of settlements by size and function in the Oroncota region.

a number of villages comprised by groups of residential constructions made in stone, and measuring between 0.13 and 2 ha (n=34). However, most sites were small artifact scatters with isolated stone walls and measuring less than 1 ha (n=270). It is likely that these small sites represented the remains of small residences and homesteads.

Depending on the presence of construction or type of architectural remains, we recorded a variety of settlement functions. These comprised domestic sites with the remains of stone dwellings, large settlements with public architecture, and, at a smaller level, artifact scatters and singleroom sites that were possibly corrals or observatory posts (Figure 4.8). Moreover, we found other specialized function sites like defense wall segments, cemeteries, small-scale agrarian terraces, storage qolqas, dams, and sites with colorful rock art along the communication route. We also compared the distribution of the site’s size along the altitudinal spectrum (Figure 4.9). Most of the settlements were in the upper Plateau (n=243), and, as noted earlier, most of these sites were small. By comparison, the Valley zone had fewer sites (n=65), but there was a preponderance of large settlements including villages and local centers (Figures 4.10 and 4.11).

Since farming was an important component of the local economy, it is important to evaluate the extent to which agricultural potential relates to broader, regional-scale settlement shifts. In the Early Yampara period

Oroncota settlements distribution by size and function

Figure 4.8. Oroncota settlements distribution by size and function.

(A.D. 400-800), most sites were spread out on the Valley floor, with only few found on the Plateau (Figure 4.12). In the following Yampara Classic period (A.D. 800-1300), there was a radical shift to intensive settlement of the Plateau (Figure 4.13). Even though most of the Early Yampara sites remained inhabited, many new ones were established on the upper Plateau. Therefore, this shift involves an increase in the regional population and in the ecological preference of settlement favoring the Plateau. Later, during the Late Yampara-Inka period (A.D. 1300-1536), this trend continued. Not only did the number of settlements continue to grow rapidly,

Altitudinal settlement shifts in the Oroncota region over time. Mean altitudinal distribution of sites by period

Figure 4.9. Altitudinal settlement shifts in the Oroncota region over time. Mean altitudinal distribution of sites by period.

Oroncota settlements distribution by location and size

Figure 4.10. Oroncota settlements distribution by location and size.

Oroncota settlements distribution by location and site function

Figure 4.11. Oroncota settlements distribution by location and site function.

but most of the new sites were established on the Plateau (Figure 4.14). As noted in Table 4.2, the frequency of settlements in this zone nearly doubled in the last Late Yampara-Inka period, whereas on the Valley floor it remained approximately the same.

At this point, it is also useful to compare the settlement shifts against ethnohistoric narratives describing the conquest of Oroncota during the reign of Tupac Inka Yupanqui (Cobo 1993 [1582-1587]). As discussed earlier in this chapter, this ethnohistoric scenario portrays a “sudden” population increase of the Plateau as a response to the Inka intrusions with

Settlement distribution in the Early Yampara period, Oroncota region (A.D. 400-800)

Figure 4.12. Settlement distribution in the Early Yampara period, Oroncota region (A.D. 400-800).

K-means analysis. Distribution of settlements and clustering patterns in the Classic Yampara period (A.D. 800-1300)

Figure 4.13. K-means analysis. Distribution of settlements and clustering patterns in the Classic Yampara period (A.D. 800-1300).

K-means analysis. Distribution of settlements and clustering patterns in the Late Yampara-Inka period (A.D. 1300-1536)

Figure 4.14. K-means analysis. Distribution of settlements and clustering patterns in the Late Yampara-Inka period (A.D. 1300-1536).

Table 4.2. Distribution, chronology, and location of the ancient settlements identified in the survey of the Oroncota region

Period

Number of sites

Valley (Zone 1)

Pucara Plateau (Zone 2)

Mean

altitude

Standard

dev.

Early Yampara

24

19

5

2,203 m

313.24

Classic Yampara

107

32

75

2,588 m

370.49

Late Yampara-Inka

190

44

146

2,643 m

344.21

Colonial times

10

10

0

2,030 m

43.17

Not defined

100

14

86

Note: A total of 308 sites were found. Multicomponent sites were counted separately for each period.

more than 20,000 Indians of distinct origins. Since my data point to a population shift starting in the Classic Yampara period (A.D. 800-1300), long before the Inka expansion, it is most likely that this sudden population increase scenario represented a dramatic idealization of Colonial era informants. If the refugees stayed for a very brief time, it is also possible that this was not materialized archaeologically. At any rate, ethnohistoric accounts, particularly those legitimizing kings and political leaders, often include simplified reconstructions of historical episodes and focus on single events rather than on long-term trends (see also Alconini 2009).

 
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