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Strontium Isotope Evidence for Prehistoric Migration at Chokepukio, Valley of Cuzco, Peru

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Valerie A. Andrushko
Department of Anthropology, Southern Connecticut State University, 501 Crescent Street, New Haven, CT 06515 (
Michele R. Buzon
Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, 700 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907
Antonio Simonetti
Department of Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Robert A. Creaser
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2R3, Canada


Although Spanish chroniclers referred frequently to coerced migration in the Inca Empire, these migrations have been difficult to document archaeologically. One approach to migration studies, strontium isotope (87Sr/86Sr) analysis, has emerged as an effective technique. Until now, however, this method has not been applied to the Inca heartland region of Cuzco, Peru. In this study, we use strontium isotope analysis to examine patterns of prehistoric migration in the Cuzco Valley. Human dental enamel samples from the Cuzco Valley site of Chokepukio are analyzed and compared to the local 87Sr/86Sr signature established through faunal specimens. Though tentative due to a small sample size, the isotope results do not provide evidence for migration at this site from the time periods preceding the rise of the Inca Empire (200 B.C. to A.D. 1400). In contrast, there is substantial evidence for migration during the time of Inca imperialism (A.D. 1400–1532). Among these migrants, variation in 87Sr/86Sr values suggests that individuals emigrated from geologically diverse locations, while sex differences in the migrant group include a higher percentage of females and a greater diversity in female 87Sr/86Sr values. These data, along with ethnohistoric evidence, reveal how Inca labor policies reconfigured the composition of populations in the imperial heartland.

Este artículo presenta evidencia de las migraciones prehistóricas en el valle de Cuzco basado en un análisis de los isótopos de estroncio en los restos humanos. Muestras del esmalte dental de individuos enterrados en el sitio de Chokepukio en el valle de Cuzco han sido analizadas para determinar si habían imigrantes viviendo entre la población local. Nuestros datos indican la presencia de varios individuos migratorios enterrados en Chokepukio en la muestra del Horizonte Tardío/período Inca (1400–1532 d.C), pero los datos no confirman la presencia de imigrantes antes del período Inca. La variación en niveles de estroncio sugiere que individuos migraron a la capital incaica de lugares diversos. Un análisis de la demografía de la migración sugiere que el estado inca dirigió la migración para cumplir con obligaciones al imperio incaico.

Part 1: Themed Section on Tehnology Approaches
Copyright © 2009 by the Society for American Archaeology.

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Strontium Isotope Evidence for Prehistoric Migration at Chokepukio, Valley of Cuzco, Peru
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