Multi-Scalar Analysis of Copper and Silver Production under the Inka: A Case Study from Northern Chile

Author(s): Colleen Zori

Year: 2017


Andean prehistory witnessed the development of numerous regional metallurgical traditions that were harnessed and significantly restructured as the Inka empire (AD 1400-1532) expanded along western South America. Taking the Tarapacá Valley of northern Chile as a case study, I analyze how imperial incorporation altered the production of copper and silver across multiple spatial scales. I begin at the regional level, analyzing how the procurement and transport particularly of silver-bearing ores was undertaken by the empire. Specifically, the technical and logistical difficulties presented by local silver mines demanded a degree of coordination virtually impossible without the organizational capabilities of the Inka state. I then present data related to valley-level changes, focusing on how Inka incorporation altered the spatial distribution of smelting sites in the Tarapacá Valley. These data indicate that metallurgical activities became increasingly concentrated at Tarapacá Viejo, the imperial administrative center. Finally, I take a site-level approach to the organization of copper and silver refining, documenting the physical and social segmentation of the production process. This study provides important insights into the impacts of imperial incorporation on metal production, focusing on how interconnected changes occurred at scales from the regional to across a single site.

Cite this Record

Multi-Scalar Analysis of Copper and Silver Production under the Inka: A Case Study from Northern Chile. Colleen Zori. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431303)


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): 14503