At Home with the Sapa Inca

At Home with the Sapa Inca: Architecture, Space, and Legacy at Chinchero

Copyright Date: 2015
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    At Home with the Sapa Inca
    Book Description:

    By examining the stunning stone buildings and dynamic spaces of the royal estate of Chinchero, Nair brings to light the rich complexity of Inca architecture. This investigation ranges from the paradigms of Inca scholarship and a summary of Inca cultural practices to the key events of Topa Inca's reign and the many individual elements of Chinchero's extraordinary built environment. What emerges are the subtle, often sophisticated ways in which the Inca manipulated space and architecture in order to impose their authority, identity, and agenda. The remains of grand buildings, as well as a series of deft architectural gestures in the landscape, reveal the unique places that were created within the royal estate and how one space deeply informed the other. These dynamic settings created private places for an aging ruler to spend time with a preferred wife and son, while also providing impressive spaces for imperial theatrics that reiterated the power of Topa Inca, the choice of his preferred heir, and the ruler's close relationship with sacred forces. This careful study of architectural details also exposes several false paradigms that have profoundly misguided how we understand Inca architecture, including the belief that it ended with the arrival of Spaniards in the Andes. Instead, Nair reveals how, amidst the entanglement and violence of the European encounter, an indigenous town emerged that was rooted in Inca ways of understanding space, place, and architecture and that paid homage to a landscape that defined home for Topa Inca.

    eISBN: 978-1-4773-0549-2
    Subjects: Archaeology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book began as an attempt atreqsiy, the Quechua word meaning “to know a place or a people.”¹ In particular, the goal of the project was to become familiar with the Inca estate of Chinchero and the landscape in which it was embedded.² As the project moved forward, it led to an examination of Chinchero’s creation, its dynamic use as a private residence and state center, its role in a complicated battle over succession, its transformation into a royal memorial and prison, and finally its desecration and subsequent reconstitution as a Spanish colonial town. Growing as such endeavors do,...

  7. 1 PIRCA
    (pp. 11-34)

    On the slopes below the Peruvian town of Chinchero, tourists come to gaze at the blocks of finely carved stone that have been laid together in cascading terraces (fig. 1.1). At the top of a hill, these same visitors gather (out of breath) to photograph similar stones the Inca used to build a series ofpirca(walls)¹ around an immense plaza (fig. 1.2). Thesepircaalso formed the distinctive rectangular buildings that were part of an impressive royal Inca estate. Although some walls were subsequently dismantled and rebuilt during the colonial period to define a new indigenous town, the surviving...

  8. 2 PACHA
    (pp. 35-64)

    The journey to Chinchero begins with three long, undulating roads. Ranging from flat, stone-lined streets to steep stairways and elaborate viewing places, the carefully constructed passage to Chinchero’s main plaza leaves contemporary visitors exhausted and humbled. Whether an imperial Inca visitor reacted the same is unknown, but in terms of design, traveling to Chinchero was as important as being there. These roads were exclusive landscapes that the Inca state controlled and carefully constructed to convey meaning for the traveler, the dynamic experience that is the focus of this chapter.

    For the Inca, roads reinscribed the landscape by manipulating the experience...

  9. 3 PAMPA
    (pp. 65-88)

    After walking for hours along narrow Inca roads, all movements carefully controlled and confined, the visitor finally reached the heart of Topa Inca’s estate. Stepping off a long, steep stairway, the traveler was suddenly standing in a vast space (figs. 3.1–3.2). An expansive view opened to reveal a large field framed by a distant mountain range. On a clear day, the impressive snow-capped peaks ofapuSalcantay were visible. To the right, across the Chinchero Valley, lay an unmodified hill, and to the left, the only visible architecture. Walls of finely worked polygonal limestone blocks had been carefully positioned...

  10. 4 PUNCU
    (pp. 89-110)

    A collection of dark limestone walls defines the Pampa on two sides. Today, this architecturally dense area stands in sharp contrast to the open space of the Pampa. However, during imperial Inca times this strict division would not have been experienced as absolute. Instead, there would have been carefully controlled exchanges between these two areas. Through a creative use of viewing spaces and openings such aspuncu—doorways¹—Inca designers constructed dynamic stages and frames for movement within the architectural border. The viewing platform,cuyusmanco, andcarpa uasiare examples of this. At Chinchero, this spatial spotlighting was done in...

  11. 5 UASI
    (pp. 111-140)

    Although thecuyusmancoandcarpa uasiwere readily distinguishable because of their unusually large doorways, most Inca buildings were not. At first glance, the simple, single-room, rectangular structures of the Inca appear remarkably similar and rarely display any easily identifiable features that could disclose their identity or function. The three impressiveuasi(buildings or “houses”)¹ that line the Pampa at Chinchero (CP3, CP4, and CP5; see fig. 5.1) illustrate this point. These finely made limestone structures make up the majority of the southern façade of the Pampa. Together, their regularly spaced openings and continuous polygonal masonry project a unified front;...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. 6 PATA
    (pp. 141-170)

    Although Chinchero’s most impressive architecture formed the grand entrance to the ceremonial Pampa, this majestic stage set was not the nucleus of the royal estate. That designation belongs to a small collection of buildings on a series of elevated terraces, orpata,¹ hidden out of sight. One of thesepatawas an open space that served as the nexus for Topa Inca’s private life. This was where thesapa incawould have spent much of each day and most of his nights.² It was in this highly restricted and impressive setting that close family members and a few very select...

  14. 7 LLACTA
    (pp. 171-198)

    In 1532, Francisco Pizarro and his crew made their second landing along the north coast of Tahuantinsuyu.¹ But this time the Spanish did not quickly retreat; they came prepared for a sustained presence. And conditions could not have been more perfect for the Spanish. Instead of the consummately organized and elaborately controlled empire that had existed during the reign of Topa Inca, a landscape depopulated by the introduction of European diseases and decimated by a brutal Inca civil war lay before the invaders.² The destruction initiated by these foreigners created an unimaginable hell for most Andean peoples. The arrival of...

    (pp. 199-202)

    In the centuries since the colonial period, Chinchero’s architecture and space have continued to change, yet aspects of Topa Inca’s magnificent estate can still be seen and experienced today. On the north side of Chinchero, Topa Inca’s terraces, designed to impress his powerful relatives, still cover the hillside, leaving today’s tourist in awe (and, for those bold enough to climb, exhausted). These imperialpatawere created to provide Topa Inca with critical lands to raise valued crops. The terraces serve the same function for contemporary residents who belong to the threeaylluin town: Cupir, Ayllupongo, and Yanacona. Despite the...

  16. NOTES
    (pp. 203-248)
    (pp. 249-256)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 257-268)