Unearthing Ancient Ritual Landscape
Decoding a Dense Ritual Landscape in Bolivia’s Andean Highlands
Recent archaeological investigations in Carangas, Bolivia, have unveiled numerous pre-Hispanic religious sites and structures, including a significant set of 135 hilltop sites associated with former agricultural production areas.
Discovering 135 Hilltop Sites with Concentric Walls
Researchers identified these hilltop sites both on the ground and through satellite imagery. The sites contain between two and nine concentric walls, each occupying a different terrace level surrounding the hilltops. Pre-Hispanic pottery fragments are abundant at all locations, mainly from the Late Intermediate and Late Periods (1250-1600 AD).
Ceremonial Spaces: Not Just Defensive Structures
Lead author Pablo Cruz explains that although these religious sites share some defensive features with pre-Hispanic occupation sites known as pucarás, there is no significant evidence suggesting residential use. These ceremonial spaces emerged during the Late Intermediate Period and were later reinterpreted by the Incas.
A Unique Circular Construction: The Waskiri Site
In addition to the hilltop sites, archaeologists identified an entirely different site, Waskiri, near the Lauca River and the Bolivia-Chile border. This impressive circular construction, located on a small hill, stands out due to its large dimensions and distinctive design. The site consists of a perimeter ring made up of 39 contiguous enclosures and a central plaza scattered with pottery sherds from the Late Intermediate and Late Periods.
Waskiri’s Potential Connection to Bartolomé Álvarez’s Chronicle
The first reference to Waskiri might be in the chronicle of evangelizing priest Bartolomé Álvarez, who traveled through the Carangas region during the 1580s. Álvarez recorded information about a “great circular building” where indigenous authorities gathered for the Sun ceremonies during June’s Inti Raymi and other religious events, including animal sacrifices.
Inca Ceques: Connecting Waskiri to the Inca Empire
Waskiri’s radial design and its association with the region’s main religious landmarks may reflect the Inca ceques system—vectors that extended from the Coricancha temple throughout the Inca Empire. Cruz suggests that the radial walls surrounding Waskiri’s 39 perimeter enclosures resemble the Inca ceque of Cuzco, which could indicate that the Incas replicated Cuzco’s symbolic structure in colonized regions.
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