SURVEY: 2009 AND 2010 seasonS

In the summer of 2009 we performed a full-coverage pedestrian survey of 80 km2 around the principal site of Machu Llaqta.  The aim was to understand the settlement pattern through time, and the relationship between Machu Llaqta and the surrounding area.  We returned briefly in 2010 to do a more intensive study of tomb architecture at several cemeteries in the survey zone. 

The 2009 survey was conducted by two field crews working simultaneously during seven weeks.  Each crew walked at intervals of 50 m and used a high precision mobile GPS unit to record site boundaries and standing architecture (walls, dwellings, tombs).  Isolated (non-site) tombs were also recorded whenever they were encountered.  Systematic surface collections were made at each site larger than 1 ha.  Data from the survey have been incorporated into a GIS, facilitating analysis and visualization.  A mobile GPS unit was also used to relocate tombs in 2010 and gather additional information on them.


A total of 103 sites from all time periods were recorded, as well as over 300 non-site archaeological features (largely tombs). 

In ge
neral, sites were most common in the most productive agricultural zones, particularly on terraces facing Lake Umayo and on low hillslopes adjoining the plains.  However, several sites are also located on the high hilltops, including Machu Llaqta itself.  People chose to settle in these spots despite the lack of water sources, poor agricultural and pastoral potential, and exposure to the elements.  Some of these hilltop sites are walled, indicating a defensive purpose. 
Four sites with important Archaic period (<5000 – 2000 BC) occupations were identified in the survey area, and several isolated Archaic points were also collected.  These finds indicate that various different topographic zones were at least lightly used in the Archaic.
The succeeding Formative period (2000 BC – AD 400) is distinguished by the development of agriculture and sedentary life, and eventually by the rise of centers characterized by ceremonial architecture and fine ceramics (see Background).  The survey encountered plentiful Formative sites, mostly on low hillslopes, especially around Lago Umayo, where conditions for cultivation are optimal.  There are several relatively large sites
(5 to 10 ha) that were significant population centers.  One of these large sites, shown to the left in a satellite image, includes civic-ceremonial architecture: a large platform mound with a sunken court on top and surrounding walled compounds.  More unexpectedly, several Formative sites were located in defensive hilltop locations, suggesting that a degree of conflict threatened populations in this early phase. 

The identification of subsequent Middle Horizon sites (AD 400 – 1000) is somewhat provisional because of complications with the ceramic sequence.  Small quantities of imperial Tiwanaku and Tiwanaku-related ceramics were found at several sites, but there does not appear to be a major Tiwanaku center in the survey area.  However, this zone may have had contact with Tiwanaku because of its location on a route between Tiwanaku and the Arequipa valley, where Tiwanaku colonies were established.

In the subsequent Altiplano or Late Intermediate Period (AD 1000 – 1450), the settlement pattern was dominated by at least eight fortified hilltop sites (pukaras), in
keeping with a macroregional pattern of defensive hilltop settlement in this period.  Smaller contemporaneous sites are located on low hillslopes, often close to pukaras.  The largest site at this time is Machu Llaqta.  However, a group of four pukaras at the other end of the long mesa formed a considerable population cluster and may have been a political counterweight to Machu Llaqta.
With the transition to the Inca period or Late Horizon (AD 1450-1532), settlement decreased at and around Machu Llaqta, and a major center emerged at the northern end of the mesa, on the route to Arequipa and extending under the modern town of Vilque.  Settlement
extended along a low hill range just to the north, where parts of the ridgetop were leveled to form distinctive flat Inca plazas (shown to the left). Small Late Horizon sites are scattered throughout terraced lands elsewhere in the survey area.  Large chullpas (mortuary towers) of fine stonemasonry may have housed the remains of local nobles or Inca administrators.

To summarize, survey results suggest that agricultural productivity was a major determinant of settlement location, that agricultural strategies changed through time, and that people nucleated in large centers for motives that also changed through time in their relative emphasis on ceremony, defense, and proximity to major trade routes.

Large cemeteries were also established in late pre-Columbian times.  These were often located on the hills and rocky outcrops, or in elevated rubble mounds, possibly in order to render them more visible from afar.  The most important of the cemeteries (shown below) includes more than 300 tombs from the Late Intermediate and Inca periods. In 2010 we revisited several cemeteries and collected more detailed information in order to better understand variation in tomb styles within and between sites.  Our data indicates there were distinct local traditions of tomb construction that varied from site to site, even in the relatively small survey area and within the time frame of the Late Intermediate Period to Late Horizon.  Local traditions of tomb style were nevertheless bound together by a few fundamental principles of construction that are present across the board, even spanning quite different tomb types.  With precise locations for every tomb found in the survey area, we are also able to analyze the logic of tomb placement on the landscape.

Informe of the 2009 survey available upon request.