Browsing Radiocarbon, Volume 54, Number 2 (2012) by Subjects
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Reconceiving the Chronology of Inca Imperial ExpansionThe basic chronology of Inca imperial expansion in Andean South America derives from historical accounts from the Spanish Colonial era, but several issues with this traditional chronology have arisen in recent decades. Advances in radiocarbon dating and calibration now give us some ability to refine or rebuild the chronology, and guidelines for obtaining the most useful dates are discussed. Dates recently obtained from the site of Chamical in the southern highlands of Ecuador are evaluated according to those guidelines, and they suggest Inca expansion to the north began 1 to 2 decades earlier than allowed in the traditional chronology. The chronology of Inca expansion presented in the Spanish chronicles is called into question by these and other dates, and by a reconsideration of the nature of sources of Inca history utilized by Spanish writers. Evidence suggests a primary Inca form of recording provincial conquests resulted in lists that were ordered geographically. However, those records were interpreted by colonial writers as being chronologically ordered, which led to written histories of Inca expansion that are not consistent with the actual historical sequence of events. As a result, the preferred approach to building a chronology of Inca expansion should be based on 14C dates, with historical sources used to supplement rather than structure the timeline.