Core-Periphery Relations in the Recuay Hinterlands: Economic Interaction at Chinchawas, Peru

Article excerpt


For many world regions, core-periphery perspectives have become increasingly important to model the interaction that ancient polities have with client or subject groups. These models benefit by focusing on regional asymmetries in political power and economics linking societies characterised by different levels of social organisation--as represented by the flow of goods, services and wealth from the periphery to the core (Algaze 1993; Chase-Dunn & Hall 1991; Peregrine & Feinman 1996; Rowlands 1987).

This paper examines the relationships between core polities and their hinterlands from the perspective of a small agro-pastoral village, Chinchawas, located in the North Highlands of Ancash, Peru (Figure 1). At different times during its principal occupation (AD 500-900), the community participated within larger political systems in different ways, as shown by a broad variety of evidence (i.e. ceramics, faunal remains and long-distance exchange).


I first describe Chinchawas in relation to a Rccuay polity (AD 300-600), which was based in the Huaraz basin. The next two phases (together, AD 600-850) feature patterns attributed to the demise of Recuay and subsequent Wari expansion into the region, associated with the first pan-Andean polity (AD 700-900). This time was marked by strong economic growth, but general continuity in local cultural traditions. Late Wari influence at the site (AD 850-950) coincided with new patterns in ceramics and trading relations. Finally, the post-Wari period saw a significant decline in interaction and cultural elaboration, evidencing the collapse of previous economic and cultural networks. It is argued that the diachronic patterning of core-periphery interaction may be best reflected at a provincial level.

Core-periphery perspectives and the ancient Andes

Based on early Spanish sources, Rowe's classic survey (1946) outlined the uneven course of Inka conquest, in which it is implicit that a single model might not be able to account for the complexity of the empire's expansion and rule (D'Altroy 1992; Malpass 1993; Rostworowski 1988; Stanish 2001). Recent syntheses reiterate that archaic Andean polities were not monolithic political systems (D'Altroy 2002; Schreiber 1992; Stanish 2003). States establish different forms of relationships with provincial groups and adopt strategies to facilitate, or maximise, benefits for core groups. Different conditions warrant context-specific solutions, such as coercion, taxation, redistribution, exchange and detente. Schreiber (1992) describes the Wari state as a geopolitical 'mosaic of control' featuring different methods and levels of provincial integration.

Recent studies engage explicitly with core-periphery perspectives and find different levels of applicability for the Andes (Burger & Matos 2002; Goldstein 2000; Jennings & Craig 2001; Kuznar 1996; La Lone 1994). Concerns about the comparability of the models arise, because mechanisms in Old World economics (e.g. markets, money and intensive transport (wheeled and seaborne), especially of staples), which are basic to Wallerstein's formulation (1974-80) of the capitalist 'World System', do not have clear analogues in the ancient Andes. Although the bureaucratic infrastructure, such as roads and storage systems, is well known for the Inka political economy (Hyslop 1984; Morris 1986), evidence for such phenomena and their temporal/functional interrelationships remain poorly known for earlier Andean systems (e.g. Burger 1992: 210; Schreiber 1991: 252; Topic 2003: 245). Scholars may also be reluctant to rely on any single model to characterise the uneven developments and diverse relationships that emerge in any given core and its periphery (McGuire 1996).

Different authors have recently stressed the need to study another dimension of complex social systems, specifically, the temporal correlates of expansion, and the archaeological variability expected through time (Kolata 2003; Kuznar 1996; Stanish 1997). …