Recognising Strategies for Conquered Territories: A Case Study from the Inka North Calchaqui Valley

Article excerpt



One intriguing question in the study of early empires is how they controlled their subjects and maintained their domination (see Alcock et al. 2001). This article explores methods of colonisation and legitimacy, using the Inka empire as the object of study. Due allowance is made for the fact that the Inka empire or Tawantinsuyu was the outcome of a particular historical and socio-cultural trajectory and geographical context and, therefore, the nature of its power strategies and methods of domination differed from other ancient or modern forms of imperialism. But we believe that the particularities of a case are sometimes more interesting than their generalities since they allow us to appreciate the diverse ways in which societies order and understand the world. In particular, we examine the mechanism of Inka rule over the North Calchaqui Valley (Figure 1), showing that the strategic use of architecture and the manipulation of pathways and views within Inka places were key aspects of Tawantinsuyu's domination in the region.

Inka strategies

During the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries AD, the Inkas conquered a vast territory in pre-Columbian South America and exerted rule over numerous polities and ethnic groups, ranging from powerful states, such as Chimu on the Peruvian north Pacific coast, to the large chiefdoms of the Titicaca basin, and from the indomitable Canaris of Ecuador to the less complex communities of the South Andes. In order to control these multiple lands and peoples, they applied a variety of strategies of domination which encompassed the thorough bureaucratic administration of provincial lands (D'Altroy 2002; Covey 2008; Urton 2008), an overarching financial system based on corvee labour, attached craft specialists, state farms, storage facilities (Murra 1978; Earle & D'Altroy 1989; D'Atroy 2002), the manipulation of native structures of power, the forced relocation of ethnic communities (Murra 1978; Hyslop 1979; Pease 1982) and control over feasting and ritual activities, including the co-option of paramount An&an pilgrim centres and indigenous shrines (Bauer & Stanish 2001; Dillehay 2003; Morris & Covey 2003; Morris & Santillana 2007; Besom 2009).

Landscape and architecture were actively deployed in all of these strategies of control (Morris 1987; Hyslop 1990; Niles 1992, 1999; van de Guchte 1999; Troncoso 2004; Coben 2006). Architectural forms, spatial layout and internal circulation were used to construct a specific social order and to fix social relations. Inka spatiality not only represented Tawantinsuyu's social structure but also made people conform to it and live their lives accordingly. As at Cuzco, the imperial capital, the Inkas employed space to put people in their 'right' places (Morris 1987; Hyslop 1990; Acuto 2005). Space was oriented to the construction and imposition of distinct social identities: to mark the subordinate rank of indigenous people, limiting their capacity for action, and to support the status and social reproduction of the colonisers who, in the North Calchaqui Valley, as in many provincial areas, were Inka allies from other regions who played the part of representatives of Tawantinsuyu (Malpass & Alconini 2010). In addition, we show that the Inkas pursued the manipulation of bodily experiences to create a sense of inclusion and exclusion and to theatrically display the new order of things and their intervention over the conquered region.

The use of space in indigenous settlements

At first glance, the residential settlements that North Calchaqui indigenous communities built in the Late Intermediate period (AD 1000-1450) and during Inka occupation (AD 1450-1536) appear as large agglomerates of stone structures (from 200 to more than 500 in some cases) arranged in a cell-like pattern, as we can see from the example of the indigenous site at La Paya (Figure 2). …