Water, Copper, Wak'as, and Empire in the High Altitude Atacama


Start Date: Jan 19, 2021 - 07:30pm

Location: Presented via Zoom

Frances Hayashida is presenting a talk entitled Water, Copper, Wak'as, and Empire in the High-Altitude Atacama on Tuesday, January 19th at 7:30 pm via Zoom for the Albuquerque Archaeological Society.

How did prehispanic farmers make a living in the hyperarid, high-altitude Atacama Desert and how did their lives and landscapes change under Inka rule? Archaeologists from the University of New Mexico, the University of Chile and the Spanish National Research Council are collaborating to answer these questions for the upper Loa region of northern Chile. In this seemingly marginal landscape, Late Intermediate (ca. AD 1100–1400) communities herded llamas, irrigated terraced slopes with spring-fed canals, and mined copper. When the Inka took over this region in ca. AD 1400, they built roads and administrative centers, intensified copper mining, and expanded irrigation agriculture. An explanation for these changes requires acknowledging, as the Inka and local communities did, the role played by powerful landscape beings (wak’as) in local life and imperial politics. Inka claims to water, land, and labor were reinforced and legitimated through their control and use of copper minerals, a substance essential for offerings to mountain wak’as, the source of water and hence of life in this hyperarid environment.

Frances Hayashida is an archaeologist who studies late prehispanic societies in the Andes. She has worked primarily on the north coast of Peru. With colleagues from Chile and Spain, she currently co-directs an interdisciplinary, collaborative project on late prehispanic land use and the consequences of Inka rule in the high-altitude Atacama Desert. She is a professor of anthropology and the director of the Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico. Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her PhD from the University of Michigan.