Silver Production and Inka Expansion in the South Central Andes

Author(s): Carol Schultze; Colleen Zori

Year: 2017


Silver was an important component of the Andean prestige economy with bestowal and display of silver and silver-alloyed objects constituting a vital tool of Inka statecraft. The quest for mineral wealth was thus a motivating factor for Inka conquest of the South Central Andes. Nonetheless, the impacts of imperial incorporation on the organization and technology of metal production differed across this region of the empire. Focusing on the purification of silver ores, we present two case studies of Late Horizon metal production: the Puno Bay of northwestern Lake Titicaca, and the Tarapacá Valley of northern Chile. Each study combines regional survey data on the distribution of sites related to metal production with excavation at specific metallurgical sites and analyses of silver production debris. We document the spatial organization of the production process, from mining to refining as well as the technologies involved. We show that Inka silver production in each location was shaped by the practical demands of the silver production chaîne opératoire as well as a combination of imperial goals and local circumstances.

Cite this Record

Silver Production and Inka Expansion in the South Central Andes. Carol Schultze, Colleen Zori. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430190)


andes Metallurgy Silver

Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14369