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Cocales, the Chimú, and the Inca: Prestige Resources in Late Andean Empires

Alicia Boswell, University of California, San Diego, Junior Fellow 2014–2015

My fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks enabled me to examine how coca fields as prestige resources were managed by two great Andean imperial powers, the Chimú (100–1470) and the Inca (1470–1532). Coca, which is a highly valued resource in the Andes, can only be grown in specific ecological niches. Collambay, the location of my investigation, is in one of the few zones suited to coca cultivation in the western foothills of the Andes, on the north coast of Peru. Using ethnohistoric, linguistic, and material evidence from my archaeological investigation of the Collambay area, I argue that local elites were allied with the Chimú Empire, providing coca and gaining political prestige from this relationship, while also maintaining a distinct local identity. Under the Inca, Collambay became an even more important locale of coca production and local administration. It is the first site in the region to present evidence of an Inca-period occupation. This is significant, as we know little about Inca administration of the north coast.

While at Dumbarton Oaks, the development and interpretations of my project were constructively influenced by conversations with staff, fellows, and visiting scholars in all three study programs. The Dumbarton Oaks library provided invaluable resources for my project, specifically the Christopher B. Donnan and Donna McClelland Moche Archive as well as dissertations completed under the Chan Chan-Moche Valley Project, which are unavailable elsewhere. During the year, I wrote four rough drafts of chapters of my dissertation, completed initial revisions on a volume I am coediting with Kyle Knabb, presented at one conference, and organized a symposium to be held in Trujillo, Peru, in July 2015.