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Wealth Finance in the Inka Empire: Evidence from the Calchaqui Valley, Argentina

  • Timothy Earle (a1)
Abstract

To finance their empire, the Inka empire mobilized and expropriated both staple and sumptuary goods. This paper examines the manufacture and use of wealth-associated objects in the Calchaquí Valley, located on the empire's southern periphery. Recent excavations at the imperial settlement of Potrero de Payogasta and at the local Santamariana settlement of Valdéz recovered extensive manufacturing debris. Craft industries included copper, silver, and gold metallurgy; marine and land-snail shell-, stone-, and bone-bead manufacture; and mica disk cutting. At Potrero de Payogasta, the concentration of production debris in the households of the Inka elite and associated personnel represents attached specialization. Because evidence for several craft industries occurs together in individual households, related technologies were probably performed jointly. The inhabitants of the indigenous settlement, Valdéz, manufactured decorative items using primarily locally available land-snail shell. At Valdéz, the high frequency of ceramic molds, used in the casting of pure (unalloyed) copper, documents only initial stages of manufacture. The scarcity of finished wealth from both sites is noteworthy; although Calchaqui settlements were heavily involved in manufacture, wealth was expropriated for circulation in the Inka wealth-finance system.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
  • EISSN: 2325-5064
  • URL: /core/journals/american-antiquity
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