The Excavations

We excavated a total of thirteen pits of 2 x 2 m across the different architectural areas (52 m2), until the sterile soil was reached. Their selection was based on the results of the systematic auger perforations and surface collections we did at the site, targeted to identify the most promising areas. The excavation focused on exposing living floors, occupational surfaces, and associated archaeological features in order to assess the range of activities conducted in different areas of the installation.

The Enclosed Plaza and the Ushnu

Ushnu platform shrines were at the core of the state-sponsored ceremonies. They were often located inside plazas and had a variety of forms. Some were used as altars, as places of prayer, as areas for sacrifice, or as thrones for the Inka ruler and his representatives (Gasparini and Margolies 1980:271). They were pivotal in agriculture rituals, initiation ceremonies, ancestor worship, and even periodic military reviews (Hyslop 1990:100). Although some ushnu altars were carved stone platforms, others were natural outcrops located in the plaza corners (Gasparini and Margolies 1980; Hyslop 1990). They were common in Inka provincial sites, embodying the imperial power in distant territories (Gifford et al. 2002; Hyslop 1990).

Therefore, it is no surprise that the first test excavation we did was in the enclosed trapezoidal plaza (Figure 5.3). Within the plaza at the center, we had previously identified the remnants of a small stone circular structure, and we suspected it was an ushnu altar. Since it had a diameter of less than 2 m, we were able to excavate the entire internal portion (Figure 5.3). Yet the excavation inside the ushnu revealed an ephemeral construction surface with no artifacts. The absence of any cultural remains in the ushnu platform suggests two possible interpretations. Either the open plaza and associated features were not extensively used, or they were kept deliberately clean of refuse. In fact, in none of the auger tests in the plaza did we find evidence of cultural remains. A possibility that cannot be discarded is that we excavated only the fill of the ushnu platform.

 
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