Chanka people

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The Chanka people (or Chanca) were a Late Intermediate (ca. 1400 CE.) ethnic group in Peru. Enemies of the Incas, they were centered primarily in Andahuaylas, located in the modern-day region of Apurímac. The Chankas were divided into three groups: the Hanan Chankas, or the Upper Chankas; Hurin Chankas, or the Lower Chankas; and the Villca, or Hancohuallos. The Hanan Chankas had their center at Andahuaylas, the Hurin Chankas at Uranmarca, and the Villca at Vilcas Huaman.

The Chankas encompassed two ethnic groups with well-marked characteristics: the Hanan Chankas (or later called "kingdom of Park that war with the Cusco Quechua"); and the Hurin Chankas, who surrendered voluntarily to the Quechua Cusc, and were not destroyed or subjected to forced land transfers (mitmakuna). The Hanan Chanka did not leave major contributions other than villages and found remains of Wari pottery and their own rudimentary tools. This area needs better study.

The Hanan Chancas were an ethnic group that inhabited the region in the departments of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Junin and part of Apurímac in Peru. They are said to have originated from the lake Chuqlluqucha and united the colonial "Choclopus" (or "chocorvos") and Urququcha, both in the Huancavelica Department. Their initial territory was located between the rivers "Ancoyaco (current Mantaro), Pampas and Pachachaca, tax Apurímac. It expanded to the area "Ancoyaco ayllukuna" with its headquarters in Paucar and the Uran Chancas of Andahuaylas as a secondary base. They developed an autonomous culture and had an optional language of puquina. Its capital was Waman Karpa ("house of falcon"), on the shore of Lake Anori, 35 km of Andahuaylas, on the banks of the river Pampas.

The leader who began the expansion of Chancas was called Uscovilca, and his mummy was preserved with veneration in Waman Karpa until the time of the Incas.


According to various myths its founders were Uscovilca (founder of Lurinchanca) and Ancovilca (founder of Hananmarca or Hanan Chanka).[1] The error incurred until now was that the ethnic grouping of Hanan Chanka was confused with the Uran Chanka and that the latter joined the Pacor Pocoras in a non-existent entity called the "confederation pocra-chancas."


For some archaeologists, chanca society is a step backwards from the point of view of urban progression, as compared with the Wari culture. Their settlement pattern was the most widespread of small villages (about 100 houses). Other scholars believe, however, that the Chancas had large populations. The burials are of two types: some in mausoleums, and other simply on the ground. There are also burials made in caves or rock shelters.

They were not rivals of the Incas because they submitted peacefully to the Quechua of Cusco, losing their influence to their "older brothers" the Parkos or Hanan Chankas. (?) The towns of Soras and Rucanas were valiant and clearly warriors.

They were characterized as farmers. Their god was the feline deity, they painted their faces and screamed when fighting, and they carried the mummy of their grandparents on their shoulders. Chancas remained cohesive and managed to develop a major regional lordship which reached its height in the 13th century.

The Chankas in combat[edit]

According to Inca sources that told of the Chanka culture, the Hanan Chankas were bloody in battle. When they captured their enemies, they made them prisoners of war. They gave cruel punishments to show the enemy that they should not be messed with, such as scalping, or skinning prisoners alive. These prisoners were hung upside down so the blood concentrated in the upper body as they made small cuts on the front of the toes, and from there they began to tear the skin gradually, while the prisoner was screaming and terrified. Another common way for them to intimidate their enemies was to make cups from the skulls of prisoners, from which they drank the blood of the enemy.[citation needed]


The height of the Chankas expansion occurred between the years 1200 and 1438. After 1430 the Chanka nation attacked the Inca Empire in Cuzco. Prince Yupanqui, who had previously been sent to a llama ranch, defeated the Chanka.[2] After the war, the Sapa Inca assumed the name Pachacútec after the tough battle, in which the city of Cusco ran the risk of being captured by the Apurimeños. According to some Inca traditions, the Uran Chankas had been conquered much earlier, around the year 1230, when the Sapa Inca Mayta Cápac and his army crossed the Apurímac River, formerly called Cápac Mayu ("main river"), by means of a huge hanging bridge. The Inca, Garcilaso de la Vega (1605) gives Cápac Yupanqui a similar feat one hundred years later. However, the most solidly researched version establishes his defeat and subsequent submission at the hands of the army commanded by the Inca, Pachacútec.


It was in 1438 that the alleged leader Hanan Chanka "Anccu Hualloc" mythified himself so that the people or the "ayllus of Ancoyaco" (also called Anco Huayllu or Hancoallo) gathered 40,000 warriors from war and launched the conquest of Cusco. He advanced victoriously to encircle the city. The Inca Viracocha and many of the nobility fled in the direction of Qullasuyu in despair until a prince, Cusi Yupanqui (who later proclaimed himself Pachacutec), bravely led the resistance. While able to gather allies he offered peace to the besieged, but they rejected the offer. A bloody battle was fought in Yawarpampa ("field of blood"), providentially won by Cusco by the timely arrival of friendly forces.

This difficult victory became a legend in the story collected by the Indian chronicler, Joan de Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yampa Salcamaygua (1613). He states that the battle would have been lost if the stone soldiers ("pururaucas") had not been brought miraculously to life—stones were dressed as soldiers to fool the Chankas.

According to the victors, 22,000 chancas and 8,000 cusqueños (natives of Cusco) died at Yawarpampa. Anccu Hualloc was injured and captured. The Hanan chancas were chased as far as Antahualla (Apurímac).

The leader who defended Cusco took up sovereign power and founded a new dynasty. According to the Commentarios Reales de los Incas by Garcilaso de la Vega, the Inca fugitive was the old Yawar Huácac and the prince that took up the defence of Cusco was his son, Hatun Topa, afterwards called Viracocha Inca. According to Juan de Betanzos(1551), the fugitive was the old Wiracocha and not only him but his successor (and brother of Cusi Yupanqui), Inca Urco, escaped responsibility, the prince Cusi Yapanqui (later called Pachacútec)being their saviour. (??)

According to the victors, the Inca was the elder fugitive Yawar Waqaq and the prince who assumed the defense of Cuzco was his son Topa Hatun, named after Viracocha Inca. This is the most accepted version, which coincides with the chronicle of Miguel Cabello de Balboa (1583) and the most refined chronologies.

Other chroniclers, among them Bernabé Cobo (1653), mention a second attack by the Chankas shortly after, also headed by Anccu Huayco against Pachacútec. The imprisoned leader not only managed to escape, but gathered 8,000 Chanka fighters in Challcumarca and in Suramarca and resumed the war, this time to regain the lost territories. Being inferior in force, he chose to escape to the jungle "to a region of large ponds or lakes", following the course of the Urubamba river.


Chanka Andahuaylas were close relatives of the other tribes that inhabited the province of Ayacucho, and as a nation were strengthened after the decline of the Wari expansion. According to Sarmiento de Gamboa, the Chanca territory was divided into three groups, known as Hanan Chanca (Parkos, Ayllus del Ancoyaco), urin Chanka (Uranmarca, Adahuaylas) and villca or Rukanas (Vilcas). The Chanka nation was composed of tribes Ancoyaco, Andahuaylas, and rucanas and soras.

Regarding the geographic relationship of the native Indians, the rucanas were divided into three groups: Hanan rucana, Hurin rucana and Andamarca rucana. According to anthropologist Victor Navarro del Águila, rucana comes from rukak or lukak, i.e. shippers or mule drivers. The title was given to this province during the times of the Inca empire precisely because they were carriers for the royalty, wearing a distinctive white and red on the head. The third important province of the Chancas was that of the soras whose ancient language was aimara. The soras were divided into three groups: Hanan soras, hurin soras and Chalco. They held a snowy mountain called Carhuarazo in great reverence and were never defeated by the Chankas, being at constant war with them and allied with the Incas.


The economy of the Uran Chancas was based primarily on agricultural crops and animals.

They grew various Andean cultivated plants, in different ecological zones, and what amounted to the raising and shepherding of llamas, vicuna, alpacas and guanacos, in herds of appreciable size, which were administered from towns with special provisions to control them and feed them while they provided wool and meat.

Culture and Ceramics[edit]

Generally the ceramics were flat with a rough surface and sometimes with a red diluted slip. The decoration was a relief, with the application of buttons or clay figurines, supplemented with incisions or circular stamps. The shapes were open dishes and jugs with narrow necks, that sometimes show rustic faces.

The land where the Chanka culture was located was a strategic place from where they dominated the territory and could easily develop defensive actions. The location was related to nearby water sources, and they could take advantage of the resources offered by the land, and the presence of several ecological zones in which they were able to use to cultivate plants and rear animals.

Damián de la Bandera said about them:

They all live between the highest and the lowest points in ground cooler than hot, in high places and valleys caused by the rains, where they enjoy both extremes, of the colder land, to graze the domestic cattle, those that have them, and (those that don't)hunt the wild ones, and of the hotter land, to sow seeds, at their time. The villages are no bigger than the water and land will allow and in many of them no more than ten more indians could live for lack of water and ground.[citation needed]

The same Damián tells us that among these people there were three major trades: potters, silversmiths or metal workers, and carpenters. These trades endured until colonial times.

The remains[edit]

Their most impressive remains are "Inca Raqay"[3] studied by Martha Anders,[4] on the banks of the River Mantaro north of Huanta where the Uran Chancas built the outstanding Sondor fort, the metalworking centre of Curamba and the Inti Huatana in Uranmarca, strategically located in the most beautiful parts of the province of Andahuaylas. In every district there is also a large variety of remains which demonstrate the legacy of the Wari Pacor, Chanka and Inka cultures.

Although there is information about their military history and warlords, the archaeological remains identified as Chancas do not allow an exact profile of the life and customs of these people.

Huamancarpa (near Andahuaylas), as well as Carahuasi and Rumihuasi (near Abancay), still require further investigation.


  1. ^ quoted Purizaga Vega, Medardo (1967). "EL curacazgo chapter Pocra". The Inca Empire and Pocras. p. 34. Betanzoz speaks of Uscovilca, who for most of the chroniclers was the founder of the nation in its bias Chanca Hanan. 
  2. ^ Packel, John. "Peruvian Americans." Every Culture. (retrieved 2 May 2011)
  3. ^
  4. ^

External links[edit]

  • [1] Province de Andahuaylas, Perú (Spanish)