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Urbanism and Archaeology in the Inka World

Ian Farrington

Publication Year: 2013

One person’s lifelong research pursuit is brought to fruition here, in the first major publication on the planning and archaeology of the Inka capital of Cusco. No other book to date has focused so extensively on the oldest existing city in the Americas, the “navel of the world” according to the Inka Empire, a fascinating and complex urban landscape that grew and evolved over 3,000 years of continuous human habitation.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Series: Ancient Cities of the New World


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Figures

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pp. vii-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

Cuzco, Peru, was the center of the Inka world, and along with Tenochtitlan, the Aztec imperial capital in contemporary Mexico, it was one of the two most important cities in the Americas just prior to the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Today, when one thinks of the Inka or the South American Andes, the spectacular site of Machu Picchu inevitably comes to mind. ...

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pp. xv-xviii

The work for this book began in the early 1980s during other archaeological field projects that I was directing in the Sacred Valley. Ancient urbanism had been a long-term interest of mine. I had been a student of Paul Wheatley at University College London and had had field experience in Britain of both geographical and archaeological approaches to the understanding of the medieval town. ...

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pp. xix-xx

This work has benefited greatly from the efforts of three excellent field assistants and companions in Cusco: Eliana Gamarra, Julie Dalco, and Lisa Solling. I must also thank many Cusco archaeologists and students who have kindly given up their time to discuss their own work with me and who have provided me with unpublished reports and plans. ...

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1. Urbanism in Prehispanic Andes

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pp. 1-20

Cusco, the former capital of Tawantinsuyu, the inka empire, is a rapidly growing city in the southern highlands of Peru with a population of about 349,000 inhabitants. Despite its present tourist boom and downtown hotel growth, it remains a place readily overlooked by the visitor, who invariably flies in, stays a night or two in the city, ...

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2. Inka Architecture and Urban Buildings

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pp. 21-55

The inkas were skilled architects and builders, who achieved a great deal with the resources at hand and without the use of iron tools or any mechanical devices, such as pulleys, wheels, and draft animals. Their basic technology and a large, efficient labor force enabled them to construct magnificent cities and individual buildings. ...

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3. Canons of Inka Settlement Planning

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pp. 56-76

The ordered nature of the inka landscape with its magnificent flights of terracing, river channelization schemes, and integrated road and settlement systems of cities, tampu, palace, temples, and storehouses demonstrate that the inkas were highly skilled urban and landscape planners and engineers, a fact remarked upon by numerous chroniclers ...

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4. Archaeology and the Town

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pp. 77-86

Most studies of inka architecture and urban archaeology have been conducted in places that were abandoned shortly after the arrival of the Spaniards, such as at Pumpu (Matos 1994), Machu Picchu (Bingham 1930; Valencia and Gibaja 1992), Patallaqta (Kendall 1991), and El Shincal (Raffino 2004). ...

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5. A Historical Topography of Cusco

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pp. 87-116

The modern city of Cusco lies at the western end of the broad, inter-montane Watanay valley, immediately below the plateaux of Saqsaywaman and steep hills of Picchu. Today it stretches up these slopes and beyond, extending across several interfluvial ridges and along the floodplain to the southeast for a distance of over 10km, ...

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6. Analysis of the Cusco Town Plan

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pp. 117-137

The historical processes of urban change form the backdrop for an intensive field study of the inka capital. The layers of time that have gradually transformed the city into a modern tourist mecca need to be peeled away. This does not mean to say that the later city does not merit scholarly attention by town plan analysis in its own right, ...

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7. Inka Public Spaces, Palaces, and Temples

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pp. 138-178

Cusco played two very important roles in inka society. First, it was the political and administrative capital and hence contained the principal royal residence and, second, it was the supreme religious center where the Sun was worshipped and two other deities, the Creator god, Tiqsi Wiraqocha Pachayachachiq and the thunder god, Illapa, were venerated. ...

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8. Kancha and Streets: The Residential Plan-Units

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pp. 179-219

The three residential plan-units sit neatly, although unconformably, within the urban topography created by the important buildings and spaces of two plan-seams. They are organized about the main ridge axes, and each provides a network of well-planned streets, kancha, and compounds that offer a variety of living spaces. ...

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9. Urban Life

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pp. 220-251

The archaeological evidence from Cusco is very uneven in terms of both its quality and consistency. The excavation reports present basic stratigraphical data and material cultural finds in different ways, probably as a result of the amount of time allowed for analysis. Therefore, this prevents a robust comparative statistical analysis of the assemblages from across the city. ...

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10. Suburbs and the Inner Heartland

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pp. 252-293

The hinterland of Cusco, like that of other cities, was critical for supplying food and other resources to the capital, while its landscape features sustained the rituals and cultural hegemony of inka rule. Its role was manifold. It can be defined as the upper Watanay basin, covering an area of about 270 sqkm, that extends to the southeast as far as the Angostura, ...

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11. Ceremony and Ritual

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pp. 294-324

In any traditional city, politics, social activities, economic life, and the practice of ritual, ceremony, and religion were intimately interwoven. It is often difficult for the archaeologist to separate these functions, and it is easy to allow one to dominate interpretation. Inka archaeology is no different. ...

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12. The Navel of the World

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pp. 325-358

In his study of ancient Chinese cities and ancient urbanism in general, Paul Wheatley (1971: chap. 5) emphasized four issues critical to understanding urban symbolism: geomantic precautions, cardinal orientation and alignment, the symbolism of the center, and the parallelism between the macrocosmos and microcosmos. ...

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13. Cusco: Toward an Understanding of Inka Urbanism

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pp. 359-374

The inka capital, Cusco, was a permanent, fairly densely populated urban center that displayed the characteristics of a central place with both religious and secular monumental architecture, palaces, and residential neighborhoods. Although the urban core was small, limited to the space between the two rivers, it was surrounded closely by a group of suburban villages, ...


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pp. 375-380


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pp. 381-390


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pp. 391-420


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pp. 421-432

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About the Author, Further Reading

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pp. 454-455

Ian Farrington is senior lecturer in archaeology at the Australian National University, Canberra. He has conducted research in Peru since 1971, initially on the north coast and later in the Cusco region. He has been twice decorated by the Peruvian government, receiving the medals of the Order of Merit for Distinguished Service ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045092
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813044330

Page Count: 408
Illustrations: 34 tables, 29 b&w photos, 50 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Ancient Cities of the New World

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Cities and towns -- Peru -- Cuzco.
  • City planning -- Peru -- Cuzco.
  • Urbanization -- Peru -- Cuzco.
  • Human settlements -- Peru -- Cuzco.
  • Cuzco (Peru) -- Social conditions.
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