Accounting for the Spread of Quechua and Aymara between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca


in Archaeology and Language in the Andes

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265031
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754142 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Accounting for the Spread of Quechua and Aymara between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)


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This chapter explores broad social changes that may account for how Quechua and Aymara entered the Lake Titicaca and Cuzco regions so that they eventually replaced all other native languages. It starts with a brief overview of the topography and ecology of the area that provides the landscape upon which people developed their subsistence base and over which they moved. It then reviews what is known about the distribution of Aymara, Quechua, and Puquina in the region at the start of the colonial period. Based on this, the chapter presents a broad overview of the archaeological evidence for social development and change from the Formative to the early colonial period, in order to consider the social processes that led to the pattern of language use encountered by the Spanish. It is argued that the scale of social change wrought by the Wari Empire in the Vilcanota Valley is commensurate with the introduction and uptake of a new language, which is most likely to have been Quechua. But documentary evidence suggests the llama herders of the Lupaca, Canas, and Collagua were well-established Aymara speakers by the time of the earliest Spanish records. The social processes surrounding llama herding must be considered to account for the spread of Aymara into the Titicaca Basin.

Keywords: social changes; Puquina; social development; language use; llama herders; Wari Empire; Vilcanota Valley

Chapter.  10296 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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