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Architecture and Power in the Expansion of a Small Polity: Elite Households of the Chancay-Huaura Valley, Peru

Stacey Dunn, Tulane University, New Orleans, Summer Fellow 2011

My research at Dumbarton Oaks' library addressed community-level political and economic organization during the Late Intermediate Period [LIP] (AD 1100–1435) in the Huaura Valley, Peru. This area was part of the Chancay, a coastal polity that developed after the collapse of Huari and Tiwanaku empires, and prior to Inca expansion. Current understanding of Chancay systems is superficial because it is based on minimal systematic, scientific excavation of relevant sites. To better understand the internal structure of Chancay politics, I have excavated and analyzed materials from adobe compounds at the site of Quipico suspected to be rural elite residences used for storage and redistribution in the Chancay hinterland. The Dumbarton Oaks library contains sources extremely useful for interpretation of these data, including theses from Peruvian universities and sources on adobe architectural analyses.

While at Dumbarton Oaks, I was able to obtain maps from Chancay, Chimu, Yschma, and highland LIP sites. I applied methods of architectural analysis to these to distinguish a general architectural approach for the Chancay. When compared to architectural styles of their neighbors, the Chancay stand out as having their own distinctive style; this helps to clarify their range on the central coast.

I also investigated ethnohistorical sources that shed light on the status of Chancay political organization as it was encountered by the Inca and Spanish. According to several sources, the Chancay region was governed by local lords for each valley, which were then subject to a main ruler who resided at Pachacamac. Although multiple contact-period sources exist, only one of them describes the Inca conquest of the region. I also discovered toponymic, linguistic, and demographic information from the early colonial period for sites throughout the valley and for Quipico in particular.