Title

Archaeobotany of cerro del inga, chile, at the southern inka frontier

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-1-2010

Abstract

This study represents the introduction of systematic water flotation archaeobotany to Chilean archaeology. As such, Rossen et al. provide new lines of analysis for understanding the interaction between the Inkas and their conquered people. Specifically, using archaeobotany to identify the food remains and stored foods at the site of Cerro del Inga allowed the authors to see how the Inkas introduced their own foods into the local economy, yet continued to use the foods of the region. As they state, this analysis goes beyond simple identification of food plants and provides information about social, political, and economic policies. The archaeobotanical analysis was also able to identify the uses of some of the structures at the site as qollqas and others as habitations. The imperial policy of storing only one kind of grain in a storeroom was also corroborated in the research. An intriguing aspect of the research in this chapter is whether the individuals in charge were local leaders elevated to the status of kurakas or whether Inka individuals from other regions were present. Both ethnohistorical information and archaeological work indicate the presence of mitmaqkuna in the vicinity of the site. It is suggested they were the ones growing quinoa, probably an introduced plant to the region. However, the identification of quinoa in storerooms at the summit of the site could suggest it was also for the consumption of the individuals in charge. Was it a status food given to the elevated kurakas, or food grown for a foreigner who was more accustomed to it than the local foods? While these questions cannot be answered here, they become hypotheses that could be tested with additional research. Regardless, the research also suggests that quinoa was grown to alter the landscape as another strategy of assimilation for the Inkas. It shows how plants can be used as representative of both political aggression and resistance. Acuto (chapter 5) notes how the inhabitants of the northern Calchaquí Valley in Argentina also differentially accepted Inka material culture as an act of resistance. This chapter also provides new information about the Inkas at the very margins of their empire. The evidence indicates that the Inkas deliberately co-opted this site, fortified it against possible attack, and used it as a visual symbol of their control. The ceramic evidence from different areas of the site corroborates the reuse of the site by the Inkas. Similar locations for other Inka sites along the road network in the south suggest this strategy was common. This kind of research indicates how archaeobotany can contribute to finer lines of analysis that are presented elsewhere in this volume (see chapter 8 for a bioarchaeological contribution). Applying analytical techniques more typically used in other regions of the world to Inka studies will increase our knowledge of the varying forms of interaction between the Inkas and their subject people. © 2010 by the University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.

Publication Name

Distant provinces in the inka empire: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Inka Imperialism

First Page

14

Last Page

43

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