"More than forts": A study of High Elevation Enclosures within the Pambamarca Fortress Complex, Ecuador

Amber Marie Anderson
Anthropology, State University of New York at Buffalo
July, 2014


This work explores the roles of several High Elevation Enclosures (or HEEs) found in the Pambamarca Fortress complex of Northern Ecuador. This region of Northern Ecuador, also known as the Pais Caranqui, is bounded by Quito in the south and the Columbia/Ecuador border in the north. It was one of the last places the Inca conquered before their empire fell to the Spanish in 1532, but their incursion was by no means easy or quick, and the Inca were forced to change their usual expansion tactics to deal with the resistive indigenous societies. Their decade long struggle is most evident in the construction of numerous fortresses with the largest cordon found in the Pambamarca Fortress Complex (PFC). Within this complex, many small enclosures were found and were assumed to have military or outpost status, although they had not been previously studied. Research at these sites shows they contained a variety of other important functions, such as economic way stations, communication posts, religions or ideological locales, and outposts. Understanding the true nature of these enclosures and their ties to the fortress complex has helped better define the nature of Inca warfare in the northern frontier.