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Tomebamba, the principal Inca administrative center for the northern sector of the empire, located in the southern Ecuadorian highlands. The site was founded by Topa Inca Yupanqui during the military campaigns he led against the indigenous Cañari population between a.d. 1460 and a.d. 1470. Huayna Capac, successor to Topa Inca and penultimate ruler of the empire, was born in Tomebamba and resided there for much of his life. Various ethnohistoric sources describe Tomebamba as a "second Cuzco," suggesting that the site was deliberately created in the image of the sacred capital of the Inca Empire. Indeed, certain features of the local landscape are reminiscent of the Cuzco Valley. This resemblance was not lost on the Inca, who sought to magnify the similarities through the imposition of Cuzqueño place-names upon the local topography. Many of these toponyms are still used today.

The site of Tomebamba was first excavated by Max Uhle in the 1920s. Many of the ruins he described now lie beneath the modern city of Cuenca, Ecuador. The architectural remains Uhle encountered were vast in scale and included what he interpreted as religious structures, a central plaza, a palatial residence, guards' quarters, and a convent (aqllawasi). Elaborate waterworks, including pools, baths, and canals, as well as terraces and roads, were also recorded. The palatial sector, known as Puma Pungo, is believed to have been the royal residence of Huayna Capac. Substantial quantities of Inca pottery have been recovered from this portion of the site. Tomebamba was devastated by Atahualpa during the Inca civil war that ensued after the death of Huayna Capac in 1527. Though the site lay in ruins by the time the Spanish chronicler Pedro de Cieza De León passed through some twenty years later, it was nonetheless impressive enough for him to describe it as one of the most magnificent Inca sites in all the empire.

See alsoArchaeology; Huayna Capac; Incas, The; Yupanqui, Atahualpa.


On the archaeology of Tomebamba, see Max Uhle, Las ruinas de Tomebamba (1923).

Jaime Idrovo, "Tomebamba: Primera fase de conquista Incasica en los Andes septentrionales," in La frontera del estado Inca (1988), Proceedings of the 45th Congreso Internacional de Americanistas, edited by Tom D. Dillehay and Patricia Netherly, BAR International Series, no. 442, pp. 87-104.

John Hyslop, Inka Settlement Planning (1990), pp. 140-142, 264-265. For the most detailed ethnohistoric account of the site, see Miguel Cabello De Balboa, Miscelánea Antártica (1951; written in 1586), chaps. 21-22.

Additional Bibliography

Idrovo Urigüen, Jaime. Tomebamba, arqueología e historia de una ciudad imperial. Quito: Banco Central del Ecuador, Dirección Cultural Regional Cuenca, 2000.

Jamieson, Ross W., and Ion Youman. De Tomebamba a Cuenca: Arquitectura y arqueología colonial. Quito, Ecuador: Universidad de Cuenca: Ediciones del Banco Central del Ecuador: Abya Yala, 2003.

Kyle, David. Transnational Peasants: Migrations, Networks, and Ethnicity in Andean Ecuador. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

                                        Tamara L. Bray