Ingapirca, "Inca wall" in Quechua, a name loosely applied to archaeological ruins throughout the former Inca Empire. In Ecuador, Ingapirca is the name given to the best preserved of Inca sites. Located in the Cañari region of the southern highlands, the site of Ingapirca contains both monumental architecture and high-quality stonework. The site is best known for a large oval structure of fine Cuzco masonry called the Castillo. The oval form is rare in Inca architecture. Other Inca constructions at the site include rectangular buildings, storage units, waterworks, and agricultural terraces.
Archaeological evidence indicates that many of the Inca structures at Ingapirca were erected over preexisting architectural features. Radiocarbon dates and associated Cashaloma pottery indicate that the site was occupied by the local Cañari population prior to the Inca invasion of the region. The sector of the site referred to as Pilaloma is believed to have been the original Cañari precinct. Excavations in this area revealed a walled enclosure containing a series of rectangular rooms organized around a central patio. A monolith in the center of the patio marked the location of a shallow sepulchre containing the remains of eleven individuals and a wealth of funerary offerings, including Cashaloma pottery vessels, copper objects, and Spondylus shell.
The Cañaris were conquered by Topa Inca Yupanqui the latter half of the fifteenth century. Ethnohistoric and archaeological data suggest that Ingapirca, known originally as Hatun Cañar, was the principal settlement and sacred origin place of the ancient Cañari nation. A well-known strategy of Inca imperial expansion was to symbolically subordinate local deities and sacred places to the state religion. The superimposition of Inca structures over the Cañari capital likely reflects a conscious effort on the part of the Inca lords to dominate and co-opt the sacred significance of this site.
On the archaeology of Ingapirca, see Antonio Fresco, La arqueología de Ingapirca (Ecuador): Costumbres funerarias, cerá mica y otros materiales (1984), or José Alcina Franch, "Ingapirca: Arquitectura y áreas de asentamiento," in Revista Española de Antropología Americana 8 (1978): 127-146. On the protohistoric Cañari ethnic group, see Niels Fock and Eva Krener, "Los Cañaris del Ecuador y sus conceptos ethnohistóricos sobre los Incas," in Estudios Americanistas, edited by R. Hartmann and U. Oberem, vol. 1 (1975), pp. 170-181. For a general discussion of the regional archaeology, see Donald Collier and John Murra, "Survey and Excavations in Southern Ecuador," Field Museum of Natural History, Anthropological Series no. 35 (1943).
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Tamara L. Bray