Tambo Colorado is one of the best preserved Inca urban centers in Peru. It is said that it was ordered to be built by the Inca Pachacútec to be a place for warriors and high dignitaries. The name comes from the Quechua tampu which means "resting place", and colored by the pigmentation of its walls. Tambo Colorado is also known as Pucahuasi, from the Quechua puka which means red. It maintains the typical Inca architecture and layout, with a unique feature, it is built in adobe, and shows the adaptability of the Andeans to the new coastal environment that they were beginning to conquer.
It was an Inca settlement (1450 AD) located in the province of Pisco, valley of the same name, right bank, in a corner formed by the hills in the vicinity of the town of Humay. It is one of the best preserved archaeological sites in Peru. Typically Tawantinsuyu in its outline and architectural design presents the singularity of being built in adobe, as an example of the adaptation of Quechua architects and engineers to the new coastal environment that they were beginning to conquer.
Tambo Colorado, also known as Pucallacta or Pucahuasi (from puca = red in Quechua), is divided into three large sectors, North, Center and South, separated by the road that goes down from the mountains towards the coast and a large trapezoidal plaza, which It has an Ushno, a small platform where the Inca himself directed the most important Tawantinsuyu festivities. From the top of this very small pyramid, a large part of the wide and fertile valley that stretches towards the sea can be seen very clearly.
Tambo is a word that comes from the Quechua tampu. It was a type of building that was built along the roads and roads that made up the Cápac Ñan or Camino del Inca, the road network of Tahuantisuyu, Andean empire.
The tambos were erected every twenty or thirty kilometers, which was the approximate distance that could be covered in a day, and served as shelters for the chasquis (messengers), officials, soldiers and high-ranking people, leaving the lower classes probably excluded from the right to use. In this sense, the traffic could be intense, since the army and the gangs of workers destined to carry out public works also passed through there.
They were also used as warehouses, either to store food, weapons, wool, and other things that might be needed in an emergency, not uncommon in a land often struck by earthquakes, bad weather, or war. Each tambo was supplied by the closest communities, and the inhabitants of these were also the ones who had to provide the corresponding service in them through the shifts established in the mita, a rotating system of communal work.
Tambo Colorado obeyed all this typology but, in addition, it exercised the function of administrative center and military control of the region where it is located, which is the current province of Pisco, department of Ica (in the northern half of central Peru), in kilometer 38 of the Pisco-Ayacucho highway known as Vía de los Libertadores. In pre-Hispanic times, this territory corresponded to the limit between Cuntinsuyu and Chinchansuyu, two of the four suyos that formed the Inca domains together with Collasuyu (to the south) and Antisuyu (to the east). Like the others, the Cuntinsuyu and the Chinchansuyu were governed by their respective apus or lords, who were part of the Imperial Council of the Sapa Inca.
In its time, the complex also received names alluding to the striking color of its walls: Pukallacta (red place), Pukawasi (red house) or Puka Tampu (red tambo). It was built at the end of the 15th century by the Inca Pachacútec, the first sovereign of proven historicity in the Capaccuna (the confusing list of rulers) and responsible, since his rise to power around 1438, of an expansionist policy with which he subdued all the territories around Cuzco until they formed an empire, the aforementioned Tahuantisuyu, later established and expanded by their successors.
Now, this empire had been forged by arms and was thus maintained. And since the Cuntinsuyu corresponded to the southern part of the Chincha kingdom, which accepted without resistance the authority of the Sapa Inca, but there were also other towns nearby less willing to submit (the Chancas, Yauyos and Huancas, for example), Pachacútec considered that the Valle del Pisco was a strategically interesting place to build that great tambo and keep them under surveillance. So he chose a position on some hills in what is now the Humay district and construction began there, at an undetermined date in the period called the Late Horizon (between AD 1440 and 1532).
It consists of a series of six groups of buildings that, unlike other cases and due to the proximity of the coast, are not made of stone but of adobe (mud mixed with straw) and tapial (clay earth tamped down in a wooden formwork). They had various uses, from silos to armories, going through religious structures and homes; these were differentiated according to the category of guest they were going to house, whether they were chasquis, soldiers or officials, the latter being permanent dependencies. They are distributed in three large sectors, North, Center and South, separated by a road that descends towards the coast.
The North Sector is characterized by a large main building, whose longest side reaches one hundred and fifty meters and the bottom one hundred. Although it is known as La Fortaleza, experts consider it intended for public services.
It sits on the slope of the hill, has a single entrance and inside it has a patio around which some thirty accommodations are distributed. Around there are more buildings and in some you can still see the wooden posts of huarango (carob tree) on which the thatched roofs rested.
The South Sector is made up of two rectangular buildings separated by a wall and, as in the previous case, with separate patios as distribution axis. As for the Central Sector, it is a huge trapezoidal square around which the complex is organized. In the middle stands an ushnu, that is, a pyramid-shaped structure based on superimposed platforms and an access stairway, which was the place from where the Sapa Inca presided over the chicha libation ritual ceremonies (tradition says that he did on a throne covered with gold), although it was also used for sacrifices and astronomical observations.
The tambo presents some unmistakably Inca architectural elements, such as the doors, windows and double-jamb niches, in the shape of a trapezoid, reserved for important sites. And, despite the fact that archaeologists have found previous remains corresponding to the aforementioned Chincha culture, the truth is that the pictorial decoration of the place is also characteristically Inca. We said before that it was the red color that determined its name. Remnants of paint have remained in relatively good condition (as with the entire complex in general, the best preserved of its kind), thanks to the dry climate in that area. That is why we know that, despite the name, the walls were actually painted in large horizontal bands on stucco, in various shades: white, yellow, ochre, black...
The archaeological zone covers a total area of about twelve thousand square meters and has an annex museum, at the entrance. It can be visited all year from Monday to Sunday, between 8:00 and 16:00. The curious can broaden the experience by taking a look at the nearby -and photogenic- Morón lagoon, a small but charming oasis in the middle of the desert (some twenty kilometers from Pisco), and Monte Sierpe, a geoglyph 1,600 meters high. length and configured on the basis of thousands of holes one meter deep.
Currently, a series of works have been carried out, especially infrastructure conditioning that allows offering better services to tourists. In addition, the visit circuit has been signaled, for a better control of circulation within the archaeological zone. The place has an exhibition hall where the objects found during the excavations are presented. Tambo Colorado is located in the province of Pisco, in a corner formed by the hills near the town of Humay, at km 45 of the Los Libertadores highway, approximately 30 minutes from the city of Pisco.
The exhibition room, created in 1995, presents the cultural chronological sequence of the Pisco Valley, as well as fragments of cultural assets recovered in the investigations carried out in the Tambo Colorado archaeological complex and its surroundings. It also includes replicas, photographs, maps and infographics that contribute to the understanding of the Inca settlement.
Monday to Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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