EXCAVATION: 2012 season

In 2012 we excavated in five residential compounds at Machu LLaqta.  Excavations involved broad horizontal exposures to expose house floors, exterior use surfaces, middens and small non-residential structures.  The aim was to gain a better understanding of the use of space within a residential compound and to clarify the kinds of differences that existed between compounds.

Some of the highlights of the season included:

  1. Floors, floors, floors! Residential floors had

    Excavating an oven.

    many artifacts in situ: grinding stones,ceramics, spindle whorls, etc.  We also excavated five more baked earth ovens, as well as an oven that had been floored over when a cooking structure was converted to other purposes.  Ovens are present in a little over half of the domestic structures excavated to date, showing most families used more than one structure for different purposes. 
  2. Evidence of metal smelting at the site.  Small bits of slag and vitrified furnace lining demonstrate that Machu Llaqta’s inhabitants were engaged in the smelting of metal, probably copper, since there are plentiful copper / bronze artifacts on the site.  A small informal copper mine is found at the base of the site and may have been exploited in the past.

  1. A thoroughly burned cache of quinoa and potatoes… more quinoa than you can shake a stick at.
  2. More evidence of an intensive Formative occupation at Machu Llaqta, especially, but not exclusively, in the southern portion of the site.  Formative tombs, floors, probable feasting events, and massive fill episodes were recorded in 2012.  Our analysis will compare earlier and later occupations at this defensive site.


In 2011 we excavated in two residential compounds at Machu Llaqta and in two of the cemeteries associated with the site.   Excavations in residential compounds involved broad horizontal exposures to define the use of different spaces.   Excavations in the tombs focused on defining tomb architecture and then carefully excavating the contents of the subterranean cist.  Very few tombs from the Late Intermediate Period have been scientifically excavated in the Titicaca Basin. 

Some of the highlights of the season included:

  1. Intact residential floors with many artifacts in situ.  For example, artifacts in the  structure shown to the right include grinding stones, stone hoes, and ceramic vessels for cooking and storage.  “Messy” contexts like these clarify the activities that were associated with different structures and parts of structures.

  1. Baked earth ovens where a fire could be lit and tended under a cooking vessel.  Six such ovens were excavated in the 2011 season.  They were common in residential structures, but not universal.  These ovens indicate where food preparation took place (and where it didn’t), and their contents are rich in organic material and carbonized plant remains.

  1. Deer bone and antler.  While the inhabitants of the site clearly kept camelids and ate a lot of camelid meat, there is also plenty of deer in the faunal assemblage.  Whole and partial antlers were associated with several different structures in both residential compounds.   Antler may have had ritual significance for the people of Machu Llaqta.

  1. Metal.  Copper or copper-bronze artifacts were relatively common in residential structures.  They included adornments (sequins, tupus, and small bell-shaped pendants, such as the one to the right), a probable knife, and a large chisel. 

  1. An early occupation at Machu Llaqta, evidenced in one residential compound but not the other.  Formative pottery was recovered from subfloor fill, and one partially intact Formative or early Middle Horizon domestic structure was excavated below later remains.


Informes available upon request.