Issue - October 2007

October 2007

In this issue, Linda Quibaa invites you to read about French language in Cochabamba. If you have plans to travel, do not miss the article by Lucy Witter on the Salar de Uyuni. And Walter Sanchez, from the Archaeological Museum talks about the Inca more...

October 2007

The Trails of Power

Walter Sanchez tells us a little about the Inca trails in Cochabamba

by: Walter Sanchez
Archeological Museum,
University Of San Simón

When the Incas arrived in Cochabamba (XV Century), many of the known “Inca trails” were already being used. This is even more evident if we accept, as is already sustained, that herds of llamas were always moved to the valleys of Cochabamba centuries ago through these trails. Although without empirical evidence, there is support that leads us to believe that the Tiwanaku culture is responsible for the construction of a majority of the trails to and from the valleys of Cochabamba.

If we understand that any leader, group or State, who wants to control its people, resources and territories, they should have control over the trails. We understand that the Incas quickly took power over the network of trails of the Andes. Furthermore, these trails were rapidly linked with a politicaland ritual significance of power of the Incas over territories.

Perhaps it was during this time when differences in trails were introduced and accepted by conquered groups. Ludovico Bertonio, supports the fact that the Lupaka, a type of authority of the Altiplano, recognized three different types of trails or thaqui (as they were called in Aymara): 1. the “angofto trail”, also called Hucchufa, kullk, 2. the wide trail called Haccancca thanqui and 3. the tupu or cama, a “royal trail”. The tupu were, without a doubt, the Qhapac Nan or the Incan royal trail.

According to archeologist John Hyslop, the Qhapac Nan was the symbol of authority of the Incan State over the known and conquered world. It ran from Colombia to Argentina and joined the entire Tawantinsuyo (the four Incan States). According to griten sources, the “royal trail” emerged from Cuzco towards the four suyo and corresponded with the ceque, or ritual sites of the Incas; this is also the reason for its sacredness. One of the four trails led towards the Collasuyo where it divided in Lake Titicaca. Both trails ran along the border of the lake and the parallel throughout the Altiplano. The north trail reached the Tambo Real de Paria , located in what is now Oruro. From this tambo (a lodging point for travelers), a trail led south towards the town of Tapacarí and from there continued to the valley of Cochabamba. In the Valle Bajo, the royal trail divided into another two trails: one through the Valle Alto and another that led towards the central valley and the valley of Sacaba.

From the valley of Sacaba, another trail that was formaly established, led towards to mountain range of Tiraque and Larati. This trail contained many areas of land with old cobblestone and wall structures. In Larati, this trail divided into two smaller ones: one that continued on to the plateau of Pisle-Pallq’a, and the other towards Colomi. The trail that led to Pisle-Pallq’a was formally built. Even today there are still some visible parts of ancient cobblestone that, in some places, are accompanied by rock structures that appear to have been living quarters and corrals. From Pisle-Pallq’a, the trail leads towards the archaeological site in Tablas Monte, where we have already found Tiwanaku and Incan ceramics (See: Cocha-banner No. 24). From Tablas Monte, the trail continues until it reaches a greater archaeological site, Machu Peñón.

The trail that led towards Colomi was divided into two new trails. The first, leading to the present day area of Aguirre, going towards the countryside of Murmuntani, and crossing a bridge called Rumichaca (bridge of rock), which has disappeared. From there, it zig zags through a formally built trail until Incachaca. This trail contains a diverse system of typical Incan trails: side ramps made of stone, walls and simple drainage systems and steps.

The second trail, what is known today as the Inca Trail (See: cocha-banner No.17), leads towards the mountain of Abra k’asa and crosses the mountain range through a deep ravine of tropical surroundings. From this point on, the trail descends abruptly reaching the yungas of Incachaca/Paracti, where an important Tiwanaku and Incan archaeological site is located. In this area the trail joins together with another that leads south along the river Supay Huark’una, a trail that is almost entirely covered in cobblestone, steps and water drainage systems.

This entire network of Inca trails towards to Yungas demonstrates that the Tiwanaku and Incas did not just stop in the valleys of Cochabamba, but their presence was evident in the west Andes region and, without a doubt, the Amazonian plains of Chapare.

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