Tambo Colorado




Tambo Colorado

Site Information

Country: Peru
State: Ica Region
Location: 13° 42' 19" S - 75° 49' 45" W
Field Documentation Date(s): August 1st, 2005
Project Release Date(s): October 1st, 2006
Time Range: 1470 CE - 1532 CE
Era: Late Horizon
Culture: Inca
Site Authority: Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Peru
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3D point cloud of Room 24 (imperial bathroom) at the Northern Palace, created from laser scan data

Site Description

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Tambo Colorado is located at the entrance to the Pisco valley, just 35 km inland from the port city of Pisco on the southern coast of Peru. The archaeological site features large, rectangular complexes that are arranged around a large, trapezoidal plaza.

Tambo Colorado contains extensive standing architecture made primarily from adobe, with elements characteristic of classic Inca imperial architecture as well as others borrowed from local Chincha and Ica traditions. Along the main plaza is an Ushnu, a wide platform common at Inca administrative centers, which functioned as the throne for the Inca ruler. The site also contains intricate lattice work, single and double-framed niches, ornamental crests, and corbeled arches, constructed from stone and adobe.

The adobe walls were adorned with plaster and painted with horizontal, alternating ribbons of white, red and yellow. Due to favorable climate conditions, much of this paintwork is still preserved, making Tambo Colorado one of the best preserved Inca sites in the coastal area of Peru.
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History

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At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru in 1532, the Incas had built an empire stretching from the modern Ecuador-Colombia border to the Rio Maule in Chile, and from the Pacific Coast to the Argentinean Pampas. As an expanding empire, the Incas built numerous new towns and administrative centers in their newly conquered territories.

Tambo Colorado is considered to be one of several provincial sites built by the Incas in demonstration of their power and organizational prowess. Sites such as Tambo Colorado and Lima La Vieja were used as regional Inca centers; ceremonial and administrative complexes designed to integrate the conquered coastal peoples of Chincha and Ica into their empire.

Historical documents are not clear as to when and by which Inca ruler the Chincha-Ica region was eventually conquered, but the available evidence suggests that this region was not integrated into the empire until the reign of Thupa 'Inka Yupanki sometime between 1470 and 1490.
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Perspective of the Northern Palace, created from laser scan data

Project Narrative

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For four field seasons (June 2001, June and July 2003, June 2004, and August 2005), a team from the University of California at Berkeley conducted a documentation research project at the Inca administration center of Tambo Colorado, Peru. During the field seasons the researchers gathered information in HDS, GPS, photography, panoramic photography, kite photography, time-lapse photography, and videography. The detailed digital documentation of the site is being used to support archaeological and architectural research at Tambo Colorado. The focus was the majority of the site, including the Northern Palace, the main trapezoidal plaza, the Utilities structure, South Western Palace I, and South Western Palace II. In 2003, the Istituto per le Tecnologie Applicate ai Beni Culturali (ITABC) participated in the research as well. The research was funded by the Kacyra Family Foundation and UC Berkeley.
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3D point cloud of the Ushnu, created from laser scan data

Preservation

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Tambo Colorado was first studied by Max Uhle in 1901. He produced detailed, extensive maps of the site, its architectural remains and documented them with numerous photographs and notes. Professor Jean-Pierre Protzen from the University of California at Berkeley and Dr. Craig Morris from the American Museum of Natural History launched a new investigation of the site in 2000. This was the first major archaeological endeavor to occur at the site since Uhle's investigations.

Comparing the state of Tambo Colorado today with the documents from Uhle, it is obvious that it has suffered considerable deterioration and damage during the past century. Humidity, windblown sand, vandals, and a recent road construction project have and continue to take their toll on the site. For all of these reasons, Tambo Colorado is in desperate need of further documentation and conservation measures if it is to survive.
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Area Descriptions

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Northern Palace
Room 01
Room 02
Room 03
Room 04
Room 05
Room 06
Room 07
Room 08
Room 09
Room 10
Room 11
Room 12
Room 13
Room 14
Room 15
Room 16
Room 17
Room 18
Room 21
Room 24
Room 29
Room 30
Room 31
Room 32
Room 33
Room 34
Room 37
Room 40
Room 41
Room 42
Room 43
Room 44
Room 45
Room 46
Room 47
Room 48
Room 49
Room 50
Room 51
Room 52
Room 53
Room 54
Room 55
Room 56
Room 57 & 58
Room 59
Room 60
Room 62
Room 64
Room 65
Room 66
Plaza
Eastern Edge
Northern Edge
Southern Edge
Utilities
Western Edge
Ushnu
South West Palace I
South West Palace II

Northern Palace

Northern Palace Description:

Unlike the extensive damage to the southern palaces, most of the Northern Palace's damage is limited to walls being broken to add entrances and passages within the building and the looting of its two imperial baths. The structure sits on the north side of the trapezoidal plaza and forms a rhomboid with sides 57-59 m in length. It faces the valley and its back rises up the slope of a hill. The palace contains three courts (Rooms 1, 9, and 42) which succeed one another and decrease in size from front to back; most of the palace's rooms would have been roofed as well.


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Room 01

Room 01 Description:

Room 1, the largest court in the Northern Palace, served as the general reception area for visitors. It is decorated with an ornamental crest made of masonry on the walls.


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Room 02

Room 02 Description:

Rooms 2-8 have direct entrances from the main court, Room 1. Rooms 2-8 surround Room 1 and may have been for general housekeeping uses of the Northern Palace.


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Room 03

Room 03 Description:

Rooms 2-8 have direct entrances from the court, Room 1. Rooms 2-8 surround Room 1 and may have been for general housekeeping uses of the Northern Palace. The room is white-washed in color, its windows are also white, and chamfers indicate it as being a roofed room.


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Room 04

Room 04 Description:

Rooms 2-8 have direct entrances from the court, Room 1. Rooms 2-8 surround Room 1 and may have been for general housekeeping uses of the Northern Palace. The room is white-washed in color and its windows are also white.


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Room 05

Room 05 Description:

Rooms 2-8 have direct entrances from the court, Room 1. Rooms 2-8 surround Room 1 and may have been for general housekeeping uses of the Northern Palace. The room is white-washed in color and lacks niches.


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Room 06

Room 06 Description:

Rooms 2-8 have direct entrances from the court, Room 1. Rooms 2-8 surround Room 1 and may have been for general housekeeping uses of the Northern Palace.


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Room 07

Room 07 Description:

Rooms 2-8 have direct entrances from the court, Room 1. Rooms 2-8 surround Room 1 and may have been for general housekeeping uses of the Northern Palace. This room lacks niches.


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Room 08

Room 08 Description:

Rooms 2-8 have direct entrances from the court, Room 1. Rooms 2-8 surround Room 1 and may have been for general housekeeping uses of the Northern Palace. Room 8 was white-washed although its windows were painted yellow, rather than the typical white, and show traces of red beneath the yellow.


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Room 09

Room 09 Description:

Room 9, the second court of the Northern Palace, was of a higher formality than Room 1 and it contains the most prominent wall coloring within the palace, implying it to be the most ceremonial of all the rooms. The room was likely roofed in part if not completely, it contains an ornamental crest made of masonry on the walls. Room 9 contains trapezoidal, double-framed niches likely used for the placement of important objects.


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Room 10

Room 10 Description:

Rooms 10-14 may have been occupied by close servants of the Inca such as Incas of lower-rank. Room 10 lacks niches although its walls are painted with a red border strip atop a broad white stripe.


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Room 11

Room 11 Description:

Rooms 10-14 may have been occupied by close servants of the Inca such as Incas of lower-rank. Room 11's walls are painted with a red border strip atop a broad white stripe.


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Room 12

Room 12 Description:

Rooms 10-14 may have been occupied by close servants of the Inca such as Incas of lower-rank. Room 12 has windows painted in white and its walls are painted with a red border strip atop a broad white stripe.


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Room 13

Room 13 Description:

Rooms 10-14 may have been occupied by close servants of the Inca such as Incas of lower-rank. Room 13 has windows painted in white.


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Room 14

Room 14 Description:

Rooms 10-14 may have been occupied by close servants of the Inca such as Incas of lower-rank. Room 14 is white-washed in color and lacks niches.


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Room 15

Room 15 Description:

Room 15 connects Rooms 9, 17 and 42. Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42) this room is simply white-washed in color.


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Room 16

Room 16 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), Room 16 contains trapezoidal, double-framed niches likely used for the placement of important objects.


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Room 17

Room 17 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this passageway connects Rooms 15 and 18. It was likely unroofed and sheltered by the surrounding projecting roofs.


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Room 18

Room 18 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42) this passage way was likely unroofed and sheltered by the surrounding projecting roofs.


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Room 21

Room 21 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41.


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Room 24

Room 24 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41. Room 24 is one of the only two imperial bathrooms in the Northern Palace, the other being Room 57, although it is not as grand as room 57. The upper portions of the wall are adobe masonry and the room contains a drain for water to flow into the room through the wall. The stonework inside appears to have made up a basin or reservoir rather than an exit drain for the water as seen in Room 57.


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Room 29

Room 29 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41. The windows of Room 29 are painted white and the room was probably unroofed.


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Room 30

Room 30 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to room blocks 19-30 and 31-41. Room 30 is a long corridor that served as a direct access route to Rooms 31-41.


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Room 31

Room 31 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41.


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Room 32

Room 32 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41. As part of the two-story tower located in the southwest corner of the Northern Palace, Room 32 was once roofed by the floor of Room 41.


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Room 33

Room 33 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41. Chamfers indicate this as a roofed room.


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Room 34

Room 34 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41.


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Room 37

Room 37 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41.


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Room 40

Room 40 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41.


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Room 41

Room 41 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room had limited access as the middle court, Room 9, is the only entrance to Rooms 19-30 and 31-41. As part of the two-story tower building located in the southwest corner of the Northern Palace, it rests atop Room 32. Room 4’s roof was probably held up on columns in its four corners; only a part of one column remains.


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Room 42

Room 42 Description:

Room 42, the third court in procession from the entrance of the palace, contains intricate latticework on its upper walls and double-framed niches that are distinctly painted.

Thanks to favorable environmental conditions, the walls of Room 42 have retained enough residual colored paint to accurately reconstruct what the original wall painting would have been like. Color here was often applied in horizontal strips of red, black, white, and yellow ochre atop stucco.


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Room 43

Room 43 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Room 43 was white-washed in color.


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Room 44

Room 44 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42.


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Room 45

Room 45 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Room 45 contains an ornamental crest made of masonry on the walls.


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Room 46

Room 46 Description:

Room 46 connects Rooms 47-52 with Room 44. Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42.


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Room 47

Room 47 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Double-framed niches are found on the front of this room. It contains an ornamental crest made of masonry on the walls which seem to have been painted red. Its walls are white-washed in color, and it contains attributes that suggest this room had a religious purpose.


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Room 48

Room 48 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Room 48 lacks niches and its walls are white-washed in color.


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Room 49

Room 49 Description:

Room 49 is a passageway or transitional room. It lacks niches and was white-washed in color. Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42.


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Room 50

Room 50 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Double-framed niches are found on the front of this room. It contains an ornamental crest made of masonry on the walls which were painted red, its walls are white-washed in color in the interior, and it contains attributes that suggest this room had a religious purpose.


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Room 51

Room 51 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Room 51 lacks niches.


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Room 52

Room 52 Description:

Rooms 43-52 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Room 52 contains an ornamental crest made of masonry on the walls, which are white-washed in color.


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Room 53

Room 53 Description:

Rooms 53-65 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room may have housed the closest servants of the Inca.


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Room 54

Room 54 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), it appears that Room 54 was the principle residence of the site's authoritative figure. Room 54 appears to have been fully roofed and is one of few rooms to house double-framed niches; Room 54 also contains the only niches to be painted with four colors and is the access point for Rooms 65 and 66.


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Room 55

Room 55 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), Room 55 is the only room to have tri-colored niches of the most simple niche style and one of two rooms, the other being Room 62, to have the simplest niche style painted in two colors. It also contains an exceptional example of an Inca corbel arch, constructed by projecting adobe progressively inwards to create a narrow vault.


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Room 56

Room 56 Description:

Rooms 53-65 can only be entered from the inner court, Room 42. Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room may have housed the closest servants of the Inca.


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Room 57 & 58

Room 57 & 58 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), Room 57 is one of two imperial bathrooms in the Northern Palace, the other being Room 24; Room 57 is larger in size than Room 24 and measures 3 m long, 2 m wide and 1.5 m below the level of the gallery. The upper portions of the wall are adobe masonry and the water drain is still present.

Thanks to favorable environmental conditions, the walls of Room 57 and Room 58 have retained enough residual colored paint to accurately reconstruct what the original wall painting would have been like. Color here was often applied in horizontal strips of red, black, white, and yellow ochre atop stucco.


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Room 59

Room 59 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this passage was likely unroofed and sheltered by the surrounding projecting roofs.


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Room 60

Room 60 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), this room's walls are white-washed in color. It appears to have been fully roofed and the niches found on the front of its southern wall are double-framed. Its step-like elevations suggest this was a bed chamber, surely that of an Inca elite considering its location within the palace and easy access to Room 57, the imperial bath.


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Room 62

Room 62 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), it is one of two rooms, the other being Room 55, to have the simplest niche style painted in two colors; its windows are painted white.


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Room 64

Room 64 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), the walls of Room 64 are white-washed in color and lack any niches.


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Room 65

Room 65 Description:

Considered part of the private habitation of the Inca (as are all rooms west of Rooms 1, 9, and 42), access to Rooms 65 and 66 is only located on the west side of the building. Room 65's walls are white-washed in color, it appears to have been fully roofed, and double-framed niches are found on the front of the room. It is also decorated with surviving latticework along its upper walls. Rooms 65 and 66 comprise one of two towers within the Northern Palace.


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Room 66

Room 66 Description:

Room 66 is a long gallery at the back of the Northern Palace, 57 m (187 ft) long and ranging from 1.3 - 2.1 m (4.3 - 6.9 ft) in width with a small rectangular area just above room 65. Rooms 65 and 66 comprise one of two towers within the Northern Palace and Room 66 was only accessible through Room 65 via a latter. This room rises above all the other rooms at 10 m (32.8 ft) above the floor of the Plaza. It features elaborate latticework which stretches its entire length.


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Plaza

Plaza Description:

Trapezoidal in shape, the plaza extends 102.5 m (336 ft) across to the west from where the Ushnu can be found. The other major adobe constructions of the Northern and Southern Palaces can be found flanking the plaza as well. These constructions, which consist of enclosed courtyards surrounded by room complexes, are called Kanchas.


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Eastern Edge

Eastern Edge Description:

Trapezoidal in shape, the plaza is 62 m (203 ft) on the eastern side which is flanked by the Utilities structure.


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Northern Edge

Northern Edge Description:

Trapezoidal in shape, the plaza is 192 m (630 ft) on the northern side which is flanked by the Northern Palace.


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Southern Edge

Southern Edge Description:

Trapezoidal in shape, the plaza is 137 m (450 ft) on the southern side which is flanked by South Western Palace I and South Western Palace II.


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Utilities

Utilities Description:

This structure contains eight rooms and is located on the east side of the main plaza. The exact use and purpose of this structure and its rooms are unknown. Archaeologist Max Uhle considered them a storage locale during his visit to Tambo Colorado in 1901. Professor JP Protzen of the University of California at Berkeley has given them the name "Utilities" during his ongoing studies of the site.


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Western Edge

Western Edge Description:

Trapezoidal in shape, the plaza is 102.5 m (336 ft) to the west, where the Ushnu platform can be found.


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Ushnu

Ushnu Description:

At the west end of the Trapezoidal Plaza is a wide platform with small ramp access to its terrace. This platform, known as an ushnu, was a common site at Incan administrative centers; it would have served as the viewing area of the Inca during festivities in the plaza with its raised position reasserting his dominance over the area.


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South West Palace I

South West Palace I Description:

The two southern palaces have been eroded away on their southern sides by both river floods over the centuries and most recently the building of a road. They are severely dilapidated and incomplete. The paint covering the walls of the two southern palaces is almost completely gone, unlike the northern palace. South Western Palace I contains a single tower room, two decorated entrances, two courtyards, and a division of the rooms similar to that of the Northern Palace; this signifies that South Western Palace I was of greater importance than South Western Palace II, which lacks any of these features.


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South West Palace II

South West Palace II Description:

The two southern palaces have been eroded away on their southern sides by both flooding of the river over the centuries and most recently the building of a road. They are severely dilapidated and incomplete. The paint covering the walls of the two southern palaces is almost completely gone, unlike the northern palace. Lacking many features of South Western Palace I, South West Palace II appears to be the least important of the three palaces. In comparison it has only one court, no tower, and only one decorated entrance; South West Palace I has two decorated entrances, a tower, and two courts and the Northern Palace has five decorated gates, three courts, and two tower rooms.


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References:

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  1. Uhle, M. Letter to Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst. 11 September 1901. Original Catalogues, M. Uhle. Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA.

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Credits:

more     - Michael Ashley
     - Justin Barton
     - Coco Liboiron
     - Nicole Medina
     - Laura Mezolf
     - Oliver Monson
     - Jean-Pierre Protzen
     - John Ristevski
     - John Arnold
     - Mike Frecks
     - Maurizio Forte
     - Craig Morris
CyArk
     - Anthony Fassero
     - John Mink
            Lead Researcher

     - Alonzo Addison