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Anthropologist's findings yield new insights on inca empire


(NC&T/UIC) Bauer, professor of anthropology at UIC, has won a National Endowment for the Humanities university teachers' fellowship to support a year of writing, during which time he will complete a book on South America's powerful Chanka ethnic group, defeated by rival Inca in a pivotal battle for control of the central Andes during the mid-1400s.

While still a graduate student, Bauer grew interested in the Chanka but discovered that there had been very little archaeological research done on this important group.

"It seemed to be to be a huge gap in our understanding of prehistory," said Bauer.

"I had wanted to start this project years ago, but during much of the '80s and '90s the Chanka area was basically 'no-go' because of the presence of the Shining Path."

In the early 2000s the political situation changed and researchers could begin to work in the region again, he said.

Bauer conducted a National Science Foundation-supported archaeological survey project from 2001-04 in the Chanka home region of Andahuaylas, near the present day city of Cuzco, Peru.

His three-year survey of the area covered some 400 sites, yielding findings ranging from a few pottery shards to entire towns along mountain ridges. Working with Sabine Hyland, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, the two coordinated their research project to match archaeological finds with historical records in Peru and Spain.

"Traditionally, what little we know about the Chanka was written in Cuzco and is based on information narrated by Incas," said Bauer. "Local documents and archeological work in the Andahuaylas region reveals a very different story. We are finding that the political organization of the region was far less complex than suggested in the Inca histories and that the Inca may have greatly exaggerated their role in defeating and reorganizing the Chanka."

Bauer discovered that there is surprisingly little evidence of Inca occupation in the region. He also found that Chanka settlements often continued in higher elevations and that their society was not radically reorganized by the Inca as many scholars have long believed.

"These findings make us question how much of Andean history was rewritten by the Incas," he said. "When there is a disconnect between the archaeology and the traditional history of a region, we have to wonder why."

Bauer and Hyland will co-author a book that examines the cultural and political development of the Chanka, their defeat by the Inca, and subsequent Spanish conquest of the region. They expect it to be in print in English by 2009 and in Spanish the following year.

Bauer used a UIC Institute for the Humanities Fellowship to begin writing his portion of the book last year and will continue writing full-time using what is now his third prestigious career fellowship from the NEH.

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