Archaeological Survey in Northern Highland Ecuador: Inca Imperialism and the País Caranqui: Bray

Bray, Tamara L. “Archaeological Survey in Northern Highland Ecuador: Inca Imperialism and the País Caranqui.” World Archaeology 24, no. 2 (October 1992): 218–33.

Tamara Bray’s “Archaeological Survey in Northern Highland Ecuador: Inca Imperialism and the País Caranqui” documents the presence of local and Incan influences in the Guayllabamba basin, an area that represented the Incas’ northern frontier in the decades immediately preceding Spanish conquest. Bray’s team surveyed a 120-suare kilometer area around the cities of El Quinche and Guayllabamba, northeast of the modern day city of Quito, identifying a total of sixty-six archaeological sites, architectural remains, and ceramic and lithic shards.

Results from the survey offered a number of important conclusions that support our understanding of the northern Ecuadorian Andes as an important region in the pre-Colombian era, including its development of large-scale irrigation works, complex social systems, and evidence of networks of long-distance trade. Bray argues that the agricultural potential of Guayllabamba, a Quechua word that means “verdant plain” may have attracted the Inca to the area, as well as the presence of a local religious site at El Quinche, perhaps linked to the Cayambe peoples’ fame as being great hechiceros (222).

The survey’s most important find came through the analysis of ceramic artefacts found at the different archaeological sites occupied by the Incas and by the indigenous Andeans. While most ceramic shards at all of the sites were manufactured in the rough local style, about a third were of the Panzaleo style, fabricated with materials found only in the eastern Amazonian foothills at the base of the Andes. Bray found that the presence of Panzaleo artefacts declined as the presence of Incan artefacts increased, which she argues is evidence that the “repression of long-distance trade and extra-local contacts” was a key element of the Incan conquest of this region (228). Based on this evidence, Bray challenges narratives of a Pax Incaica claiming that Incan imperialism generated internal peace within the state and removed inter-regional conflicts that hobbled the exchange of goods. Instead, she argues that, at least in the northern Andes, open hostilities and the disruption of trade networks into the Amazon were a feature of life under the Inca (230).

N. H. Gill
Quito, 2020

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