The Archaeological Record
The Obrajes Sites
Because the project’s first research objective is to construct a regional chronology, excavations will take place at sites ranging from the Formative through the Inka periods. Three candidates have already been identified. Uspa Uspa is a large, densely occupied Formative Period (ca. 2500 BC–AD 100) community belonging to the semi-sedentary agropastoral Wankarani culture of the altiplano. The Wankarani are well known in southern Andean history for living in closely packed communities over very long spans of time, thus producing ashy mounds that resemble Near Eastern tell sites. Jach’uma is a newly discovered site on top of a ridge mid-valley with occupations spanning the pre-Tiwanaku (ca. AD 100-800) and Tiwanaku-contemporary (ca. AD 800-1100) periods.
The ancient Tiwanaku State in the southern Lake Titicaca Basin, which lies along Bolivia’s border with Peru, was a non-territorial, non-militaristic ceremonial state centered at the capital city of Tiwanaku itself. Its relations with communities in the Bolivian altiplano, the agriculturally fertile eastern lowlands, and the western Pacific coast (in what is today southern Peru and northern Chile) continue to puzzle Andean archaeologists for their highly variable nature. Dr Beaule’s research focuses on the impact of trade between Tiwanaku’s heartland and on local populations lying on these trade network routes. The long narrow valleys in northeastern Oruro province funneled trade caravans between the highlands to the west and lowlands to the east during the entire span of prehistory. Thus phase I (summer 2010) of the larger project will set up a regional settlement pattern and demographic survey of a 250 km2 area (phase II) of this important border between the highlands and lowlands. To do so means constructing a regional chronology because none yet exists for the area.
Paria, the third site, is a well-known Inka (ca. AD 1300-1500) center next to our home base of Obrajes. Located at the wide mouth of the Obrajes Valley, Paria was well situated to control this trade between highlands and lowlands. Preliminary work at the site by Bolivian colleagues reveals a fascinating outpost of Inka administrators and local elites, some of whom were buried in a prominent chullpa (tower tomb) that sits on a ridge directly behind the village of Obrajes. Though much larger than Uspa Uspa and Jach’uma, excavations here too will include several 2x2 m2 units taken down to sterile soil for chronological analysis.