Changes in the Southeastern Inka Frontier

Some Colonial accounts explain that through diplomatic efforts, the Inka ruler Pachacuti (A.D. 1438-1471) had established early horizontal elite alliances with regional chiefs in what later became Charcas (Platt et al. 2006). Although it is unclear whether this was actually the case, later, during the reign of Tupac Inka Yupanqui (A.D. 1471-1493), these alliances are described as being transformed into vertical forms of subjugation through military conquest. In this context, Oroncota in the inner frontier became one of the last bastions of resistance of the indigenous populations. Cuzcotuyo, at the margin, was also allegedly constructed by this ruler as an advance frontier post, geared toward facilitating the political annexation of outer tropical groups. Later, during the reign of his son Huayna Capac (A.D. 1493-1528), the increasing Guarani advances into the southern frontier became acute and endemic. These invading hordes destroyed and ransacked many Inka frontier fortifications like Cuzcotuyo, Inkallajta, and Samaipata, including the territories within. As a response, Huayna Capac enhanced the military nature of this frontier segment in order to deter the invasions and hence to restore peace and stability. He instructed his captains to reconstruct the fallen garrisons, ordered the construction of many more frontier facilities, and populated the inner borders with a substantial number of military mitmaqkuna colonies as a protective shield. He also strengthened alliances with a myriad of local chiefs like the Yampara, in order to form a common bloc against the invading enemies (D’Altroy et al. 2007; Rowe 1985; Sarmiento de Gamboa 1943 [1572]).

Archaeologically, radiocarbon dates place the construction of the Oroncota and Cuzcotuyo Inka centers in the first half of the fifteenth century (Figure 5.6; Table 5.1). A comparison of these dates made possible the reconstruction of the Inka expansion in this frontier segment. Whereas in the western Valley of Oroncota the early Inka occupation dates around A.D. 1422-1444, at eastern Cuzcotuyo the empire arrived around A.D. 1394-1423 (Figure 5.6). Although both dates somewhat overlap, the Inka presence in Cuzcotuyo is slightly earlier. There are two implications. First, this timing supports previous interpretations that the Inka in the southeastern Andes must have expanded before the reign of Tupac Inka Yu- panqui (A.D. 1471-1493). Second, it is also possible that the Inka dynastic sequence derived from Miguel Cabello Valboa’s Colonial accounts is not accurate, and therefore the dates associated with each ruler are slightly off (D’Altroy et al. 2000; Meyers 1998; Parssinen 1992). Whatever was the case, an important implication is that the fortification of Cuzcotuyo at the frontier margin was established before the inner region of Oroncota, possibly serving as an advance location. Perhaps this responded to localized needs, to different episodes of expansion into the tropics, or to the shifting strategies employed by the different rulers.

However, there is no question that after their construction, both centers of Cuzcotuyo and Oroncota provide evidence of subsequent spatial and functional modification. These shifts might have responded to the emergent changes in the configuration of the frontier or to the emerging needs experienced by the regional administrators. In the center of Oroncota, two main occupational episodes highlight its evolution. In the earlier period, there was evidence of public feasting and celebrations conducted on a cyclical basis. In the second period, most of the complex was architecturally renewed and embellished. By comparison, the military function of Cuzcotuyo in the frontier margins was strengthened over time. After an episode of intensive fire, the stronghold was reconstructed with more defensive features. As part of these shifts, there was also a reduction in the scale and orientation of public feasting. In both situations, diplomacy in the form of hospitality celebrations was an important strategy of political incorporation. Afterward, each center was abruptly abandoned, perhaps following the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century.

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