La Centinela

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La Centinela

La Centinela, the capital of the Chincha kingdom. The archaeological site of La Centinela lies near the modern town of Chincha Baja and near the mouth of the Chincha valley. It consists of a group of impressive adobe compounds that were built during the period of the Chincha kingdom but continued to function during the following period of Inca domination. In the midst of these local architectural compounds the Inca built a compound of their own. While the earlier Chincha construction was of the coursed adobe known as tapia, the Inca compound was constructed of adobe bricks. It also contained a rectangular plaza and had the trapezoidal niches and doorways typical of Inca architecture. But alongside the buildings that appear to have served as an Inca palace stood a pyramidal platform more reminiscent of earlier Chincha architecture even though it was constructed of adobe bricks and constituted a formal part of the compound of the dominant Inca. Several of the compounds built of tapia had been modified with adobe bricks, in one case extensively, indicating Inca alteration of existing structures. Scholars suspect that these local compounds were related to Chincha social units and were the settings for important ceremonies and rituals, probably including initiation, marriage, and other rites of passage. Archaeological evidence of extensive manufacturing or other purely economic activities has not been found.

Differences in Inca architectural modification to the Chincha compounds may have been related to differences in the ways the Inca supported and controlled various groups. Though they exerted control indirectly, the Inca were obviously not content to leave the mechanisms by which they carried it out entirely in local hands. Elements of Inca identity were made evident at many points in the social and political ceremonies that held together the upper levels of local society. However, pottery design, which employed both Inca and Chincha elements, survived into the Spanish colonial period.

La Centinela was probably part of a broader network of population centers and other kinds of sites in the Chincha valley. These were linked by a system of roads, one of which was part of the Inca road system during the times of the Inca Empire. The nearby sites of Tambo de Mora and La Cumbe were perhaps visualized as part of the same large complex during pre-Columbian times. La Cumbe served mainly as a cemetery.

See alsoArchaeology; Indigenous Peoples.


Max Uhle, "Explorations at Chincha," in University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 21, no. 2 (1924): 55-94.

Additional Bibliography

Sandweiss, Daniel H. The Archaeology of Chincha Fishermen: Specialization and Status in Inka Peru. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 1992.

Wing, Elizabeth S., and Jane C. Wheeler. Economic Prehistory of the Central Andes. Oxford: B.A.R., 1988.

                                     Craig Morris