James is a PhD student in Anthropology at UNM. This research was made possible in part by funding from the Latin American & Iberian Institute and Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant (FRG). For more information about the FRG, please visit the LAII website.
The site of Centinla
Thanks to the generosity of the LAII and the Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant, I was able to travel to the coastal Huaura Valley of Peru to conduct research. The purpose of this trip was twofold: firstly, to conduct a detailed analysis of a Late Intermediate (A.D. 1000 to 1450) and Late Horizon period (A.D. 1450 to 1532) ceramic assemblage; secondly, to visit sites in the Huaura Valley to evaluate their excavation potential for further study. I travelled to the archaeological site of Centinela, which is located on Peru’s Pacific coast at the mouth of the Huaura River. Centinela is composed of adobe compounds and public spaces that were inhabited from the Middle Horizon period (A.D. 600 to 1000) up until European contact. By studying the ceramic assemblage from the site of Cerro Colorado, I have familiarized myself with the material culture of the Huaura Valley, experience that will prove useful for future research in this area.
At its apex during the Late Horizon period (A.D. 1400 to 1532), the Inka Empire incorporated over twelve million subjects and over eighty subject polities during its century-long rule (D’Altroy and Bishop 1990). To maintain control over their vast and diverse territory, the Inka adapted differing flexible administrative techniques depending on “the complexities and capacities of indigenous societies, diversity in regional resources, and logistical and security considerations” (D’Altroy and Bishop 1990:120). Some areas were heavily incorporated into the state political system, while other more remote or marginal polities were ruled indirectly. The ways in which these different areas experienced Inka rule depended on the kinds of local resources, proximity to the imperial core, the degree of local cooperation, and the existing degrees of political integration (Alconini 2008:65). While these strategies differed greatly in some respects, there were nonetheless commonalities experienced by each polity that included “exclusive payment of taxes through labor service, inalienability of the peasantry’s resources, complex practices of ritual exchange and hospitality that provided the context for political relations, and elaborate ceremony central to activities ranging from farming to shearing wool” (D’Altroy et al. 1998:283). As such, the Inka Empire did not radically or indiscriminately reorganize the polities it subjugated; rather it “selectively manipulated those aspects of indigenous culture that impacted directly on state finance, political control, and security” (Costin 2002:203).
In contrast to the highlands, the coast presented a challenge for the expanding Inka Empire as it had already established strong state-level societies with preexisting elites, hierarchies, and ideologies that resisted foreign imperial control (Covey 2006). As a result, Inka control was accomplished through modification of its imperial ideologies as to coexist alongside preexisting ones. In general, the Inka occupation of the coast can be characterized as laissez-faire, thus allowing local traditions and previous organizational structures to exist provided that goods and resources were to be extracted for the of benefit imperial interests (Covey 2006, Marcone 2010, Stanish 2001).
However, notable exceptions to this pattern of less stringent control exist. Pachacamac, a city located in the Lurin Valley of the central coast of Peru, has been an important site in the region whose existence spanned several time periods and hosted an array of pre-contact cultures. The site can be categorized as a ritual and pilgrimage center with pan-regional importance (Shimada et al. 2004), extending at least into the Early Intermediate Period (900 B.C. to A.D. 200) (Shimada 1991). In contrast to the general strategy of subordinating coastal polities, when the Inka Empire expanded into Pachacamac they made great efforts at high costs to have the site appear and be Inka. This included the renovation and repurposing of several structures, some of which were in disrepair (Eeckhout 2004). Another major change to the site was the construction of the Inka Temple of the Sun, which was built adjacent to the preexisting Temple of Pachacamac (Uhle 1991 ). The Spanish priest and chronicler Bernabe Cobo noted that the Temple of the Sun at Pachacamac was second in importance only to the Sun Temple in Cuzco, the Inka capital (1990 ). He also posited that during the period of Inka control at Pachacamac, the Temple of the Sun was the site of many important state-sponsored feasts and sacrifices as well as the home of a resident population of priests and attendants.
The decision to build the Temple of the Sun represented a deliberate political demonstration of Inka control over Pachacamac. The Inka occupation of an important ritual site like Pachacamac and the construction of new facilities in the presence of existing ritual structures sent a powerful message of cultural dominance and legitimate succession (Bauer and Stanish 2001). Additionally, the use of the highly visible Inka serving vessels in state-sponsored feasts and rituals was an attempt to portray the empire as both the sponsor of these ceremonies as well as a direct provider of food and drink (Morris 1991). The pervasiveness and distinctiveness of Inka vessel forms and styles would have served as constant reminders of the obligations to the imperial state (Hayashida 1995:274).
It is well documented that the Inka utilized the patronage of pan-regional shrines and oracles in conjunction with the importation of sacred objects and imperial styles as tools in establishing a bond between local ritual systems and the capital (Covey 2008:827). The presence of imperial symbols, both in material culture and architecture, represents a strategy of agenda control, both sociopolitical and ideological, wherein the Inka sought to legitimize their power over their subjects through the installation of cultural practices, social institutions, and ideology (Alconini 2008). This strategy, though lacking explicit connection to the ability to extract measurable revenues from agricultural or craft production, would have had a great impact on a city like Pachacamac. Pachacamac’s pre-Inka social structure facilitated ideological control of pilgrims and adherents of that shrine during Inka rule in that it allowed for easier control over other economic aspects such as agricultural and craft production. Thus, the shrine guaranteed the pacification of the population through making acts of noncompliance to imperial mandates or rebellion seem immoral.
Additionally, Inomata and Coben (2006) discuss rituals in terms of being performed acts that re-affirm imperial subjugation. They argue that ritual performances were an integral part of pre-contact societies and were used to communicate meaning and reinforce societal structure. In endeavoring to achieve the ritual as something authentic and effective for both participants and observers, the sponsors of the ritual would invest greatly in its production by creating a suitable performance space or “theater” (Inomata 2006; Coben 2012) and providing the appropriate, requisite symbols (Morris 1991). This has proven to be especially true for the Inka who reorganized existing public spaces and constructed new ones (Coben 2012).
The Site of Centinela
The series of public compounds at the site of Centinela that have been dated between the Middle Horizon and the Late Horizon periods (Nelson and Ruiz Rubio 2004) are an ideal location to investigate the changing role of ritual in societal control. This site is situated in an area that participated in the Wari phenomenon (Nelson et al. 2010). Wari was a state located in the Central Highlands of Peru that saw its material culture and symbols utilized beyond the borders of its control by local elites. Following Wari collapse, Centinela became a regional polity that was highly connected though trade or conflict with its neighbors (Brown Vega 2009). Finally, this area experienced imperial subjugation from the Inka (Krzanowski 1991) and perhaps the Chimú (Mackey and Klymyshyn 1990). Additionally, the site is composed of large non-residential compounds featuring enclosed plazas, terraces, and other spaces. Some of these structures are associated with cemeteries as well.
As the political and social landscape evolved, these compounds underwent architectural changes. For example, structures were built while others were abandoned. In some cases, structures were architecturally modified by putting partition walls which delineated and divided the previous space. In others hallways were filled with adobe tapia, thus made unusable. The site is extremely suitable for researching the changes in ritual practices through shifts in political organization. My future research will aim to investigate these changes by chronologically situating them and analyzing how these spaces evolved through time.
Mold-made face applique from an effigy vessel found at Cerro Colorado
Ceramic Analysis from Cerro Colorado
A separate part of the project involved a detailed ceramic analysis of an assemblage excavated from the site of Cerro Colorado de Huacho. Cerro Colorado is a hilltop fortress on the Pacific coast near the south end of the Huaura Valley. With three concentric walls, and a number of buildings surrounding it, the fortress contains a Late Horizon-period Inka tambo, which is a type of Inka way station used for the movement of goods around the empire. The excavations focused largely on pre-Inka areas. As I assisted in the analysis, I analyzed vessel form, size, rim diameter, paste and temper, slip, and decoration. I also created technical drawings of some of the ceramics. The goal was to determine which types of ceramics were present, and to gauge the number of manufacturing locations responsible for producing them. The result was an extremely diverse assemblage with many different types of wares. A portion of these wares have been archaeologically assigned to different areas of Peru such as the Andes highlands above the Huaura Valley and neighboring valleys to the north and south. A few Inka ceramics were also found, though it is difficult to tell if these ceramics date to post-conquest or arrived in Huaura through trade and exchange before Inka rule. The diversity of this ceramic assemblage demonstrates that Huaura was a culturally diverse area at the time of Inka conquest with substantial connections to its surrounding areas (Vogel 2011).
Conclusion The support by the LAII FRG provided immeasurable help in establishing and refining my dissertation research. I was able to identify a site suitable for answering my anthropological questions and gain a greater familiarity with the material culture of the region. Furthermore, I was also able to develop my questions into testable hypotheses, which I intend to examine through future research at the site of Centinela and beyond.