A Cultural Outpost
The Inca administrative center of Tambo Colorado sits at the mouth of the Pisco valley, just 35 kilometers inland from the port city of Pisco on the southern coast of Peru. Built as a display of the great civilization’s power, the site contains multiple palace buildings surrounding a trapezoidal plaza, on which sits a raised platform that functioned as the ruler’s throne. Provincial sites like Tambo Colorado served as cultural hubs, meant to integrate the local peoples into Inca culture.
City of Color
The famed Inca emperor Pachacuti began a tradition of skillful balance between cultural assimilation and military conquest in expansionary tactics. This contributed to his, and his son’s, success in forming an empire that likely would have lasted far beyond the fall of Cuzco had the conquistadores not arrived. Indeed, their expansion lasted up until the fall of their empire in 1532—Tambo Colorado’s region was probably not integrated into the empire until the reign of Topa Inca Yupanqui (the son of Pachacuti), sometime between 1470 and 1490—making Tambo an excellent example of Late Horizon conquest. The ruins themselves are excellently preserved due to the region’s arid conditions, meaning that even fine details like paint are still discernable among the stones. The adobe walls were adorned with plaster and painted with horizontal, alternating ribbons of white, red, and yellow; this vivid decoration gives the site its name, City of Color.
"My Wiracocha, shine on your Inca people, illuminate your servants, whom you have shepherded."
--Pachacuti, excerpt from "Prayer to the Sun"