We will focus on recreating the Inkan City, estate of Sapa Inka Huayna Capac, and possible capital of the Cañar chiefdom in this post. As a writer it is frustrating that so many Inkan cities that I am trying to depict accurately are destroyed and many of them by the Inkas themselves. Inkan Quito was destroyed by the Inkas and other natives who lived in the area so the Spanish wouldn’t loot it. Kuelap was destroyed by Atahualpa’s forces for revenge, as was Tumipampa-the most impressive city/estate in the North. It is argued that Ingapirca, Carangue, Tumbes, and many, many others were destroyed as a result of the civil war between Atahualpa and Huascar. What they did not destroy the Spanish did. That leaves us ethnographers very little, but we’ll do what we can. We will only focus on re-creating Tumipampa here and will focus on the other cities as I approach those for my book.
To solve this Tumipampa riddle we will explore what we know about the area, the known history of Tumipampa, the land/geological features, and the ethnic culture who the land belonged to, the Cañari. We will also examine Inka Huayna Capac because it was he that ordered its establishment, and then why his son Atahualpa ordered it to be burned. After considering all of that we may be able to come up with an acceptable description of the city and then you will see it in my book.
The Spanish didn’t know about Tumipampa outside of its ruinous state, and in such state, it was still impressive. To my knowledge we have one written report of Tumipampa from the 16th century by Pedro Cieza de Leon who said:
‘These famous lodgings of [Tumipampa] … were among the finest and richest to be found in all Peru, and the buildings the largest and the best. Whatever the Indians said about these residences fell short of reality, to judge by the remains … The temple of the sun was of stones put together with the subtlest of skill, some of them large, black and rough, and others that seemed of jasper … The fronts of many of the buildings are beautiful and highly decorative, some of them set with precious stones and emeralds and, inside, the walls of the temple of the sun and the palaces of the Lord-Incas were covered in sheets of the finest gold and encrusted with many statues, all of this metal … In conclusion I would say that these lodgings of [Tumipampa] were a remarkable thing. Today all is cast down and in ruins, but still it can be seen how great they were’.
Tumipampa was founded by Sapa Inka Tupa Yupanqui (Arguably Sapa Inka Pachacuti) after he conquered what is now southern Ecuador and what was then Guapondelig-part of the Cañari chiefdom. The reasons he founded the city are not clear, but I think he either wanted an estate there, or at least an administrative center for personal reasons. When it was founded it was either to be an important administrative center, city, or personal estate of Inka Yupanqui’s. It was not meant to be just another colqus, or tambos. Inka Yupanqui spent much of his time in the Northern part of Tawantinsuyu and this area is considered a sanctuary, even so today. This preference for the Northern part of Tawantinsuyu was passed down to his son Inka Huayna Capac who also resided in the North for much of his 45-year reign and where he died (disputed, but keep reading and we’ll get to that).
Before Inkan annexation, we do not know what was here, but modern day Cañari’s tell us that it was the Cañar capital named Guapdondelig. What they say makes sense because the oral histories of the Cañaris, who is still a strong ethnic community in Southern Ecuardor, are much as they were in the 16th century, and there are ruins that date to pre-Inka times.
When the Inkas annexed an area they typically built on top of existing infrastructure such as religious sites, infrastructure, huacas (sacred/abnormal sites and objects) and military sites. They did this especially when they faced fierce resistance from the annexed population, which is what they faced when the Cañaris—they wanted the conquered to be reminded that they were just that, conquered. The same practice was conducted with the Chachapoyas, and Carangues. By contrast, Pachacamac and Puna came under Inkan control with relative ease and although both were much more important to the Inkas, today there is little archeological remains that demonstrate annexation by the Inkas, at least in the case of Pachacamac, and in Puna, Inka structures took a back seat to those of the established population.
It is also important to note that Tumipampa was an exclusive Inkan site where you had to be invited to be there. But there are many stories that place Cañaris within it including that Atahualpa was later held as a captive by the Cañari’s in it. That would not be the truth unless the annexed city was renamed as well as the region, as was the case with Chachapoyas. So Tumipampa could have been an estate, administrative center, or city but in addition to that, the region that contained it could also be Tumipampa. An alternative idea is that the clout of Tumipampa was so much greater than Guapdondelig that they were collectively referred to as Tumipampa
Summary thus far: The Inkas built either a city/administrative center, or personal estate that was very impressive on top, or near, Guapondelig, the Cañar capital. It followed typical Inkan ‘pomp’ in that it included all the typical Inkan structures made from well-carved stones and covered them in precious metals.
The Cañari’s are a wise, proud, and cunning community. Even to this day they are one of Ecuador’s most prominent and affluent Native communities with sprawling cities. Their history reflects just that: they were a conquering people that supposedly annexed land all the way to the Pacific Ocean before they were conquered by the Inkas. But even the Inkas could not conquer them and it took several tries in order to do so. They were a matriarchal society and it took Inka Yupanqui to become the diplomat and to marry their matriarch in order to assert control over the land. In so doing he made her the Colla (Queen) of Tahauntinsuyu, and the mother of the heir to the red fringe (They didn’t do crowns): Sapa Inka Huayna Capac.
Much like his father, Sapa Inka Huayna Capac spent most of his time in the North putting out rebellions, conquest, and solidifying his hold on the land conquered by his father and grandfather. Keep in mind, collectively those 2 men conquered the area the size of California and left Huayna Capac to hold it. They did not have horses, they didn’t have a writing system as we know it, and they didn’t have the wheel. You try subjecting an area that size with your own feet and brute memorization.
We know that Huayna Capac made Tumipampa his personal estate, much like Machu Picchu was the personal estate of Sapa Inka Pachacuti. A Sapa Inka’s personal estate was as a personal estate is today: go crazy and make whatever you want, however you want. If you were the ruler of a large empire you had the ability to do whatever you wanted. Imagine what he built! Unlimited gold and silver, an unlimited amount of manpower, unlimited land, and stone. Leave it to the imagination because that is all we have to draw from. But we also know that Huayna Capac was a very benevolent man and was kind. There is little to show that he was proud, and that can be reflected with the name his people gave him, Huacchacúyac (Lover and of the Poor). If you look at the land that he conquered, it too was modest compared to what he forbearers conquered. So we can assume that his personal estate was modest but likely perfect in each way, as he was making his empire. To confirm this there is a story that says that the largest of the stones to construct Tumipampa were carried from Cusco (2000km, 1600mi as the crow condor flies).
It is reported that Tumipampa was among his preferred spots and was where he died. It is reported that he became sick in Quito, and then he died in Tumipampa. Think about this for a moment: he opted to be carried by litter 500km (350mi) to Tumipampa so he could die there instead of in Quito…which was still quite nice.
We also have the ruins that were discovered in 1919 by Max Uhle. I’m still working on getting my hands on his exact works, but there are secondary reports that state that they chose the most dominating and best aspects of his estate. It was located near the bridge that gave access to “the city” (Presumably Guapondelig, the Cañar capital) and the other Inkan buildings center. Although this report was given nearly 400 years after its demise, the city of Cuenca had not yet overgrown the ruins as it has now. Who knows how many ruins are built over and will not be rediscovered for decades or centuries. But we can only work with what we have.
Looking at the pictures of Tumipampa, the site is called Pumapungo, we can see that it is the “Anti” Machu Picchu-the famous ruins of the estate of his great grand-father, Pachacuti. Instead of being nestled among peaks, it is at an elevated place in a valley. Instead of the all of the buildings being situated above the agricultural terraces, many of them are positioned below them with only the most important on the crest of the hill. Tumipampa is smaller in size, and seems to be more functional, and exact then Machu Picchu.
Another internal summary: The Inkas built an administrative center near the access way to Guapondelig the capital city of the Cañar. It later became the personal estate of Sapa Inka Huayna Capac. It very impressive yet modest. It followed typical Inkan ‘pomp’ in that it included all the typical Inkan structures made from well-carved stones and covered them in precious metals but on a scaled version. It reflected the worldview of Huayna Capac of humility, exactness, and order. It was built in a way to impress the annexed population and to exert a certain degree of control as they went about their way. Each stone and item that it was made of was carefully considered to the point that some stones were carried all the way from Cusco.
So why did the Cañari’s chose this place to build Guapondelig, their capital, the Inkas then used it to construct an important administrative center, and then Sapa Inka Huayna Capac used this place to construct one of his only known personal estates?
It is simple, actually. In fact, this may be the one part in the whole story that doesn’t require too much speculation: four rivers come together here. The junction of rivers was considered a huaca-a sacred place. This is a place where four rivers come together, each of them bearing sweet water. +1 point. Then, it is also very temperate with tempatures nearly uniform year round at about 25C (65F). +1 point. It has fertile soils and at an elevation that all major Inkan crops can be grown. +1 point. It is located close to a powerful chiefdom that needs to be watched, controlled, and made to think they are important. +1 point. It is a center location to the northern half of the empire. +1 point. It was also the midpoint between the major cities of Cajamarca and Quito/Ambato. +1 point.
Being located in present-day Ecuador it gave them much better access to the wears of the Northern Amazon region, as well as tradesmen who were more prevalent in the North and could attain different items. Huayna Capac had an affinity for art. Lastly, and maybe the most important, it was near the coast where Mullu-red shells, spondylus, the closest thing the Inkas had to a coveted resource-was collected.
All of this would have influenced the astatic appeal of Tumipampa to be different than anything else the Inkas created.
So what happened to it? Why didn’t it last through the ages as
Sapa Inka. But even so, once the Cañari’s were annexed, they resisted much of the cultural change that the Inkas imposed upon them until the opportunity came for political gain when Sapa Inka Huayna Capac died. In the ensuing War of the Brothers, The Cañar people allied themselves with the distant Huascar in distant Cusco, and against Atahualpa, who had strong ties to Cañar because he grew up in the area in and around it. They had reason to do so, as Huascar may have been one of their kin. They were not silent allies either, they went as far as to kidnap Atahualpa, who unfortunately for them, escaped and brought about their end. Atahualpa returned and massacred tens of thousands Cañari’s, burned their cities, and then left to be captured by the Spanish before he could command its rebuild. One plot hole here is why would Atahualpa burn his father’s estate? It is because once a ruler died, select members of his family ‘spoke’ for him. They were called the panaca, and each panaca had a large following. The panaca of Huayna Capac likely allied with Huascar. Huayna Capac’s grandfather, Sapa Inka Tupac’s panaca allied with Huascar and we know that Apuskispay (General) Quisquis ordered that his entire panaca be killed along with their families, that their villages be burned, and that the mummy of Sapa Inka Tupac be burned-the ultimate punishment.
So what did Tumipampa look like? Well, it’s impossible to say exactly but when I’m done writing the chapter in my book describing it, look for the post on this blog.
Please note that Tumipampa is also spelled as Tomebamba, Tumi-pampa, and many others throughout works. Tumipampa reflects the early pronunciation to the best of my knowledge.
-Cieza de Leon, Pedro. The Travels of Pedro Cieza de Leon. London. The Hakluyt Society, 1864.
-de Avila, Francisco. Narratives of the rites and laws of the Yncas (Kindle Locations 992-1003). London : Printed for the Hakluyt Society. Kindle Edition.
-Malpass, Michael. Daily Life in the Inca Empire. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1996.
-Poma de Ayala, Narratives of Good Governance, Kindle Edition.
-Rostworowski de Diez Canseco, Maria. History of the Inca Realm. Cambridge Univ. Press. New York. 1999. Print.
-Rowe, John H. The Inca civil war and the establishment of Spanish power in Peru Ñawpa Pacha: Journal of Andean Archaeology, No. 28 (2006), pp. 1-9 Accessed on JSTOR
-Salomon, Frank. Native lords of Quito in the age of the Incas: the political economy of north- Andean chiefdoms. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2007. http://hdl.handle.net.nuls.idm.oclc.org/2027/heb.03634.0001.001.
-Oberem, “Los Canaris y la conquisa espanola…”, art. cit., p. 266; Guillermo Segarra Iniquez, “Probanza de don joan Bistancela cacique de Toctesi de su noble y limpia sangre y de los servicios que presto su pade al rey. 1594”, Cuaderno Guapdondelig (Quito), 1, 1976, p. 11.