Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: More than Forts: A Study of High Elevation Enclosures within the Pambamarca Fortress Complex, Ecuador
Tina Thurston Principal Investigator
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Under the supervision of Dr. Tina Thurston, Amber Kling will analyze data gathered during archaeological excavations at six High Elevation Enclosures (HEEs) found in the highlands of Northern Ecuador at the Pambamarca Fortress Complex. Here, the Inca constructed a series of 14 tightly clustered fortresses towards the end of the 15th century as they struggled to conquer the indigenous groups in the area and expand their Empire northwards. In this highly contested peripheral region, numerous large and small fortifications were erected in groups, a feature rarely found elsewhere with such high numbers or close proximities. This research will specifically focus on the six smallest enclosures in the area that have been labeled as outposts due to their small size and lack of features, but have never been extensively studied or excavated. <br/><br/>In general, these HEEs lack the military attributes many of the larger fortresses in the area contain, and instead possess other distinct traits, such as a conscious incorporation of bedrock outcrops, unique physical and spatial placements within the landscape, and various sight lines to important ceremonial and sacred features in the area. These characteristics make the HEEs interesting cases for potential ideological markers or even ritually important places like huacas (sacred landscape features worshipped by the Inca and incorporated into many aspects of their lives) that would have had profound meanings and functions within such a heavily militarized landscape. Religion and ideology were known to be powerful driving forces behind Inca conquest and were woven into many aspects of Inca life: such a heavily war-driven landscape would be an ideal place to see the melding of these worlds. Work here may also help further understand the struggle the Inca had in conquering the region, as well as shed more light on the different military, political, economic and social tactics the Inca undertook on the northern frontier as opposed to their operations on the southern and eastern borders. <br/><br/>Methodologically, magnetometry, resistivity and geochemistry will be used, as these techniques are non-destructive and efficient. However, they tend to be lacking in Ecuadorian archaeology, so this project may prove their efficacy to other researchers and could be used by others in the future, especially as modern needs (roads, farming, tower construction) see many sites modified or destroyed. Excavation will also be used to determine the true functions of these enclosures, whether military, religious, or a combination of the two, and will offer valuable insight into imperial sequences, militarized landscapes, and the use of the sacred as both a spiritual weapon and a legitimation device during the conquest and incorporation of resistant regions and frontiers. Such sequences are found archaeologically in global contexts, and are key elements in many modern conflicts, providing a cross-cultural comparison for interpreting such conditions in past and present cycles of conflict. A public website will be created to enhance visibility and data sharing, while publications and presentations will further communicate results to the scientific community. Furthermore, this project will assist in the continued training of the Co-PI as well as enhance methodological training for many American and Ecuadorian students who will work on the project.