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The Inka Frontier in Northwestern Argentina

A second frontier region of significant interest was in northwestern Argentina. It was conquered by Tupac Inka Yupanqui and his son Huayna Capac (Garcilazo de la Vega 1988 [1609]; Cieza 1959 [1553]:249-250). Part of the province of Chicoana, a prime area was the Calchaqui Valley populated by the Pulares and Calchaquies (both known as Diaguita). Whereas the Calchaquies strongly resisted the Inka, the Pulares became imperial allies, achieving in this way a high status (D’Altroy 2002:258). Archaeologically, the Pulares are known as the Santa Mariana culture, and their remains are often associated with important Inka facilities like Puerta de la Paya. Overall, in this region the Inka established strategic pockets of economic exploitation for mining and agriculture, along with the selective migration of imperial elite families (D’Altroy et al. 2007; Lo- randi 1997; Lorandi and Boixados 1987-1988; Lorandi et al. 1997; Williams et al. 2009). As in other regions, the Inka constructed strongholds along important communication routes. The imperial agenda was to ensure internal stability to guarantee the safe extraction, production, and transport of valuable metal ingots (D’Altroy et al. 2007; D’Altroy et al. 2000; Earle 1985, 1994). For example, on the eastern road segment between Cortad- eras and Tastil there were at least seven support installations, whereas to the north the defense posts of Cerro Amarillo, Zenta, and Calilegua stood out (D’Altroy et al. 2000; Williams et al. 2009) (Figure 8.3).

To the east was the Tucuman-Bolivian Yunga Mountains stretching along the imperial borders (Oliveto and Ventura 2009; Ventura 2001). Accessible through a system of roads and rivers, this region was a vital source for the provisioning of tropical resources (Cremonte 2006; Cre- monte et al. 2005). It was populated by a number of eastern tribes with distinct affiliations and degrees of mobility, including the Juries, Lules, Guarani-Chiriguanos, and Tonocote (Lorandi 1980:156; Cremonte 2006; Cremonte et al. 2005). During the reign of Huayna Capac, the recurrent Guarani invasions from the southeast and the Lule penetrations from the north became a real concern. In response, the Inka established defensive

Distribution of main Inka sites in the Inka province of Tucuman and nearby, in today’s northern Argentina

Figure 8.3. Distribution of main Inka sites in the Inka province of Tucuman and nearby, in today’s northern Argentina. The map also shows the main ethnic groups that inhabited the region. Map based on D’Altroy et al. 2007; D’Altroy 2002; Lorandi 1997; Raffino and Stehberg 1999; Ventura 2001.

outposts to protect important frontier areas. To the south of the Tucuman forest were the fortifications of Pucara de Angaldala, Nevados de Acon- quija, and Campo Colorado, whereas to the north stood the Inka facilities of El Cucho de Ocloyas, Agua Edionda, and Campo del Pucara, among others (Paulotti 1958-1959, 1967) (Figure 8.3). Of these, the stronghold of Pucara de Angaldala was the most prominent. Manned by native imperial allies, it was characterized by its defensive location, zigzagging perimeter walls, “baffled” gateways, shooting holes, inner wall platforms, rectangular kallankas, and a limited number of residences and storage qolqas (Gonzalez and Nunez Regueiro 1958-1959; Hyslop 1990; Paulotti 1958-1959, 1967).

All these border installations in northern Argentina were interconnected by the imperial road and engaged in the extraction of valuable resources. For example, Agua Edionda and Campo del Pucara had a significant number of storage qolqas. Of unique importance is Campo del Pucara in the Lerma Valley. It had at least 1,700 warehouses that were adjacent to extensive farmlands and residential areas inhabited and worked by the local Diaguita (Boman 1908; DAltroy et al. 2007; DAltroy et al. 2000; Gonzalez and Nunez Regueiro 1958-1959). Other more distant fortifications like Cucho de Ocloyas revealed a consistent distribution of Chaco pottery in the San Francisco style, along with foreign Chicha-Yavi pottery from state mitmaqkunas (Cremonte 2006; Cremonte et al. 2005).

From a comparative framework, this region shares some similarities with the Southeastern Inka frontier in what is today Bolivia. Both faced large-scale confrontations with extremely aggressive tribal organizations. The location of the stronghold of Pucara de Algaldala, at an ecological and political interface, resembled the location of the fortress of Cuzcotuyo. Both facilities had features consistent with Inka military installations: they were advantageously positioned, had defensive walls, and held a reduced number of residences and storage facilities. Also, in both regions the native allies played a central role in defending the borders (Gonzalez and Nunez Regueiro 1958-1959; Hyslop 1990; Paulotti 1958-1959, 1967). However, there were differences as well, perhaps as a response to the distinct provincial economies. Although both eastern frontier segments were strategically fortified to protect important communication corridors from invading tribes, inside the frontier territory, Tucuman showed higher levels of economic extraction than did Oroncota.

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