Friday, October 11, 2019

The Importance of Qullqas

One of the interesting points to be made about Andean Peru is the use of Qullqas (colcas) for the purpose of storage. In fact, to a "prodigious extent unprecedented in the annals of world prehistory" the ancient Peruvians stored food and other commodities which could be distributed to their armies, officials, conscripted laborers, and, in times of need, to the populace. The uncertainty of agriculture at the high altitudes which comprised most of Andean Peru was among the factors which probably stimulated the construction of large numbers of qullqas.
Left: An intact, rebuilt qullqa near Cuzco; Right: Numerous qullqa ruins near Juaja 

The problem with this is that these storage facilities pre-dated the Inca by more than a thousand years—which raises the question of “who built the qullqa food storage units in the first place?”
    First of all, the need for food storage has long been a part of the Lord’s chosen people, and the Nephites would have been no different. Beginning with the Biblical account of Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel, food storage became of prime importance. Following a dream of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, Joseph as Vizier of Egypt (called Zaphnath-Paaneah) instituted the storage plan that when the famine came, it was so severe that people from surrounding nations came to Egypt to buy bread, which eventually saved all of Egypt and the Hebrews living there, as well as many others.
    The majority of modern scholars date Joseph to the Second Intermediate Period of Egyptian history, around 1786-1570 BC, when the Hyksos ruled the delta of the Nile (Jozef Vergote, Joseph en Égypte, Louvain, Publications Universersitaires, 1959).
    For centuries, the preservation of food was essential to any people and populations. Especially in agrarian societies, the need to preserve food became essential and methods of dried, smoked, pickled, honeyed, confit, and salted foods was widely practiced; however, it was unique to find food storage in such large and controlled quantities, with special structures erected to house such quantities as found in ancient Peru.
    Secondly, a huge and well-organized system of qullqas to collect and store food and other items during good harvest years for distribution when needed, the ancient Peruvians built warehouses for storage.  Qullqas, meaning “deposit, storehouse,” were storage buildings found along roads and near the cities and political centers in ancient Peru (Timothy Parsons, The Rule of Empires: Those Who Built Them, Those Who Endured Them, and Why They Always Fall, Oxford University Press, UK, 2010, p137).
    Qullqa's were generally built of masonry in connected groups on dry hillsides to take advantage of drainage and winds. Their size and design varied from region to region, but round qullqas were typically used to store maize and rectangular qullqas were used to store freeze-dried potatoes (“chuño”) and other root crops. These storage units had a ventilation system consisting of a channel beneath the floor to permit air to enter and an opening under the roof to allow air to escape. The interior diameter of an average small qullqa was 10.6 feet); larger qullqas have a diameter of around 11.5–13.1 feet. These smaller qullqa could have held 100 US bushels of maize, and larger qullqa could have held about 160 US bushels) of maize.
    Large numbers of qullqas were constructed near every major governmental center, state-owned farm, temple, and major estate. Qullqas were built at every way station along major transportation corridors, which were inns located a day's march, about 14 miles, from each other along many of the 25,000 miles of roads and highways (Gordon R. McEwan, The Incas: New Perspectives," W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 2006, pp115,119,121).
    Long before Europe and Asia learned to store food in large quantities, the Inca in Andean Peru utilized these qullqas, built long before the Inca arrived in Cuzco and used earlier by ancient Peruvians, to store food and other commodities which could be distributed to their armies, officials, conscripted laborers, and, in times of need, to the populace. The uncertainty of agriculture at the high altitudes which comprised most of Andean Peru was obviously among the factors which probably stimulated the construction of these large numbers of qullqas.
Hundreds of Qullqas dotted the lands around Cuzco, Jauju and Tarma before urban sprawl destroyed most of them. This image shows several in various stages of deterioration from lack of care, near Cuzco 

Most of the remains of qullqas near Cuzco have disappeared due to urban expansion and development over the centuries. The largest remaining number of qullqas is in the Mantaro River Valley between the present-day cities of Huancayo and Jaujua, where archaeologists  have found and identified 2,573 qullqas. This broad, 37-mile long valley, contains about 65,000 hectares (160,000 acres) of arable, cultivatable lands ranging in elevations between 9,800 feet and 13,940 feet, the highest elevation at which cultivation was possible in this area, and subject to frost, hail, and drought (Land Use in the Andes: Ecology and Agriculture in the Madero Valley of Peru, International Potato Center, 1979, p125). All other provincial centers of the Empire had large numbers of qullqas built row after row on nearby hills
    Half of the qullqas in Mantaro Valley were placed in the center of this grain-producing area, another half scattered among 48 compounds along the course of the river. In total, the qullqas of the Mantaro Valley had a storage area of 557,742 square feet, and according to Terence N. D'Altroy, Loubat Professor of American Archaeology, a specialist in the complex societies in prehistory, especially the politics and economics of empires, who claims those of the Mantaro are the largest storage facilities in Andean Peru and in pre-Columbian America. Illustrating the quantity of stored items, these qullqas supplied and equipped an army of 35,000 soldiers during the Spanish conquest of the 1530s.
One of several qullqa complexes found throughout the Andean Peru area

In fact, near Jauju, there are 430 circular stone constructions of qullqas organized in small groups around a central area and protected by walls. In Ollantaytambo, there is a complex of 27 qullqas. Stored there and elsewhere varied from region to region in the depending upon production in the local area. At Cochabamba along the altiplano in present-day Bolivia, 200 miles southeast of Lake Titicaca in the region of the ancient Tiwanaku Culture, who were preceded by the Chiripa, archaeologists have found 2,400 qullqas, each cone shaped, about 10 feet in height and diameter, and clustered in parallel lines in an area of 61 hectares (150 acres). Some of the maize produced in Cochabamba was transported by llama caravan to the regional center of Paria, south of Caracollo, 62 miles west of Cochabamba, and then on to Cuzco. Another one thousand qullqas have been discovered at Paria (Robin A. Beck Jr., "Architecture and Polity in the Formative Lake Titicaca Basin Bolivia," Latin American Antiquity, vol.15, iss.3, 2004, pp323–343).
    At Wanuku Pampa there were 497 qullqas, along with 30 processing and administration buildings. It is thought that the city may have been an extremely important redistribution center supplying the provincial villages of the area it administered with the products of other regions. At Wanuku Pampa the Qollqas were constructed in rows and made of pirqa masonry, just as the residential districts. The groups of storehouses included: 1) a small zone of storehouses; 2) minor groups of single storehouses apparently devoted to special shrines or ceremonial activities; 3) an ill-defined section of buildings which may have held a wide variety of goods in temporary storage for more immediate uses; and 4), the largest group, which was devoted to long-term storage of various food stuffs and other goods in technologically specialized facilities. At Wanuku Pampa in north central Peru, 50 to 80 percent of the qullqas were used to store more than 4,000 edible variety of dried potatoes and other root crops.
Huánuco Pampa, Huánuco Marka, or Huánuco Viejo, is an archaeological site in the Huánuco Region, Dos de Mayo Province, La Unión District at 11,893-feet on a plateau overlooking the Vizcarra River

Storage was very diverse among crops, for example, root crops were placed in the middle of layers of straw, bound into bales with rope and stored in rectangular structures, while maize was stored shelled, in large jars which were put in circular storehouses with stone floors.
    Additional agriculture products stored in qullqas consisted of quinoa, beans, other vegetables, dried meat (Ch'arki or jerky) and seeds. Non-agricultural goods stored included textiles and clothing, wool, cotton, and feathers (used in clothing), tools and weapons and gold and silver vessels and other luxury items.
    Highland root crops made up for 50-80% of the space, while maize made up for 5-7%, probably because the high altitudes and cool climate limited the local production of maize. Root crops were layered with straw and baled for storage. Maize was shelled and stored in large jars (Craig Morris and Donald E. Thompson, "Huanuco Viejo: an Incan Administrative Center," American Antiquity, Vol 35, No. 3, 1970, pp352-358).
    Agricultural products such as maize and quinoa had a storage life of one or two years and treated products such as freeze-dried potatoes and dried meat might have had a storage life of 2-4 years. However, early Spanish chroniclers said that some products were stored for up to 10 years (Craig Morris and Donald E. Thompson, "Huanuco Viejo: An Inca Administrative Center," American Antiquity 3, Society for American Archaeology, vol.35, Iss.3, Cambridge University press, July 1970, pp344–362).
    The scope of the early Peruvian’s passion for storage is described by an early Spaniard who said of the qullqas near Cuzco, "(there are) storehouses full of blankets, wool, weapons, metals and clothes—and of everything that is grown and made in this realm. There is a house in which are kept more than 100,000 dried birds, for from their feathers articles of clothing are made. There were also shields, beams for supporting tents, knives, and other tools; sandals and armor for the people of war in such quantity that it is not possible to comprehend” (Terence N. D'Altroy, Provincial Power in The Inca Empire, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992, p281).
    The people at higher elevations grew and store potatoes, quinoa and a few other root and pseudocereal crops. Herding llamas and alpacas for meat, wool, and as beasts of burden was important (Michael E. Moseley, The Incas and their Ancestors, Thames and Hudson, New York, 2001, p77)
    The qullqas also served the major purpose of supplying armies that were on the move , rather than have them take the time for foraging. Another use for the stored items, especially food, was for the ceremonial feasts that were an important part of the Peruvian way of life.
    Certainly, the Lord’s people have always stored food and supplies against an uncertain future. For Andean Peru to have tens of thousands of these storage qullqas should suggest that the Lord’s people were in Andean Peru in BC time. Who else would that have been other than Nephitess? And the only place in the Americas where such food storage facilities were found in BC times.


  1. Makes total sense. I looked for supporting scriptures:

    18 But behold, this was an advantage to the Nephites; for it was impossible for the robbers to lay siege sufficiently long to have any effect upon the Nephites, because of their much provision which they had laid up in store, --3 Nephi 4

    7 The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as
    numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea. --Mormon 1

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  3. Del, I always appreciate it when you present information that I can add to this Andes Model sussinct study guide. I added info about qullqas today to scriptural subject #6. Any suggestions for improvements by anyone is always welcome.

    Book of Mormon Lands According to Scripture