The Chanka people (or Chanca) are a Quechua people ethnic group living in the regions of Apurimac, Ayacucho and Lamas of 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, the Urin Chankas, or the Lower Chankas, and the Villca, or Hancohuallos. The Hanan Chankas had their center in Andahuaylas, the Urin Chankas in Uranmarca, and the Villca in Vilcas Huaman, Ayacucho.

The Chankas encompassed two ethnic groups with well-marked characteristics: the Hanan Chankas (or later called "the Parkos Kingdom"); and the Urin Chankas, who surrendered voluntarily to the Quechuan Cusco, and were not destroyed or subjected to forced land transfers (mitmakuna). The Hanan Chanka did not leave major contributions other than villages, and remains of Wari pottery and rudimentary tools have been found. This area needs better study.

The Hanan Chankas were an ethnic group that inhabited the region of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Junin and part of Apurímac in Peru. They are said to have originated from the lake named Chuqlluqucha and united the colonial "Choclopus" (or "chocorvos") and Urququcha, both in the Huancavelica Department. Their initial territory was located between the Ancoyaco (current Mantaro), Pampas and Pachachaca Rivers, tributaries of the Apurímac River. They expanded to the "Ancoyaco ayllukuna" area with its headquarters in Paucar and used the Urin Chankas of Andahuaylas as a secondary base. They developed an autonomous culture and spoke a language called puquina. Their capital was Waman Karpa ("falcon's tent"), on the shore of Lake Anori, 35 km from Andahuaylas, on the banks of the Pampas River.

The leader who began the expansion of the Chankas 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 group of Hanan Chanka was confused with the Urin Chanka and that the latter joined the Pacor Pocoras in a non-existent entity called the "pocra-chancas confederation."


For some archaeologists, the Chanka 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 Chankas had large populations. There are two types of burials: some in mausoleums, and other simply in the ground. There are also burials 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, because the Soras and Rucanas were valiant and clearly warriors who fought the Incas many times.

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

The Chankas in combatEdit

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 screamed and was 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 gaining the contemporary nickname of "Vampires of the Andes".[2]


The height of the Chanka's expansion occurred between the years 1200 and 1438. After 1430, the Chanka nation attacked the Inca Empire in Cusco. Prince Yupanqui, who had previously been sent to a llama ranch, defeated the Chanka.[3] After the war, the Sapa Inca assumed the name Pachacuti after the tough battle, and the city of Cusco ran the risk of being captured by the Apurímac people. According to some Incan traditions, the Urin Chankas had been conquered much earlier, around the year 1230, when the Sapan Incan Mayta Cápac and his army crossed the Apurímac River, formerly called Qhapaq Mayu ("main river"), by means of a huge hanging bridge. The Incan Garcilaso de la Vega (1605) gives Cápac Yupanqui a similar feat one hundred years later. However, the most solidly researched version establishes their defeat and subsequent submission at the hands of the army commanded by the Incan Pachacuti.


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 and launched the conquest of Cusco. They advanced victoriously to encircle the city. The Incan Viracocha and many of the nobility fled in the direction of Qullasuyu, and were 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"), won by Cusco with the timely arrival of friendly forces.

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 that 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 Chankas 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 Incan fugitive was the old Yawar Waqaq, 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 Viracocha and not only him but his successor (and the brother of Cusi Yupanqui), Inca Urco, escaped responsibility, the prince Cusi Yapanqui being their saviour.

According to the victors, the Incan was the fugitive elder 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.

Spanish Conquest of the Inca EmpireEdit

As the Inca Civil War between Huáscar and Atahuallpa, the sons of Huayna Cápac was tearing down the Inca Empire, the Chankas, who have been enslaved under the mitma for over a hundred years and were already in the verge of extinction, heard stories coming from the north about “mysterious men with pale faces wearing armors and riding beasts (horses)”. Taking advantage of the Civil War, a bunch of Chankas managed to escape to meet these mysterious men who ended up being Spanish Conquistadores. During the meeting, the Spanish were already joined by many Indian auxiliaries: the Cañaris (who have fought on Huáscar’s side against Atahualpa), Huancas and Chachapoyas. Chankas using Felipillo as interpreter, proposed them a deal to fight together against the Incas who had stolen their lands, killed their people and enslaving the remaining survivors. The Spaniards seemed interested at first, but after hearing from their Native allies about the savage nature of the Chankas in battle, they immediately refused, since those actions (like drinking the blood of their enemies and keeping their heads as trophies) were against their Christian values. The Indian auxiliaries refused to cooperate with the Spaniards if they made a deal with the Chankas. But Francisco Pizarro, the leader of the Spanish expedition, seeing potential in them, was the only one who trusted the Chankas and convinced his men and the Indian auxiliaries that they only needed “proper leadership” since their fighting skills were superior to the Huancas, Cañaris and Chachapoyas and their cooperation would guarantee their victory.

Viceroyalty of PeruEdit

With the Spanish victory, as part of the deal, Chankas recovered their freedom and their lands. Most of them were baptized and started learning Spanish. As part of the bond between both cultures, they mixed with Spanish men and women having mestizo children. As part of the Black Legend created by Spanish rivals as a political and psychological weapon by Spain's rivals in the attempt of demonizing the Spanish Empire, its people and culture, there have been stories about their people being enslaved by the Spaniards, but these are completely false since all the Native Peruvians were protected by the Leyes de las Indias as they were considered free men and citizens of the Spanish Empire. Although, some abuses from Spanish priests were reported by the Chankas, and those were immediately punished, some of them receiving the death penalty. An important detail is that even after taking a crucial part in the fight against the Incas, only the Huancas were recognized by the King Philip II for their help in the Conquest of Peru.


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, Andahuaylas) and villca or Rukanas (Vilcas). The Chanka nation was composed of the Ancoyaco, Andahuayla, Rucana and Sora tribes.

Regarding the geographic relationship of the native peoples, 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, which means shippers or mule drivers. The title was given to this province during the times of the Incan empire precisely because they were carriers for the royalty, wearing a distinctive white and red on their heads. The third important province of the Chankas was that of the Soras whose ancient language was Aymara. The Soras were divided into three groups: Hanan soras, Hurin soras and Chalco. They held a snowy mountain called Qarwarasu in great reverence, and were never defeated by the Chankas, but were at constant war with since they were allies 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 raised and shepherded llamas, vicuna, alpacas and guanacos, in herds of appreciable size, which were managed from towns with special provisions to control them and feed them while they provided wool and meat.

Culture and ceramicsEdit

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 had rustic faces.

The land where the Chanka culture was located was a strategic place because they dominated the territory and could easily develop defensive actions. The location was close 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 remainsEdit

Their most impressive remains are "Inca Raqay,"[4] which have been studied by Martha Anders.[5] The ruins are on the banks of the Mantaro River, north of Huanta where the Urin Chankas built the outstanding Suntur fort, the metalworking centre of Curamba and the Inti Watana in Uranmarca, strategically located in the most beautiful parts of the Andahuaylas Province. 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 Chankas do not allow for an exact profile of the life and customs of these people.

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

Many Chanka ceramics and instruments are part of expositions in museums located in Apurimac, Ayacucho and Lamas, where the Chanka descendants also live.


  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. ^ The Bioarchaeology of Societal Collapse and Regeneration in Ancient Peru, page 59
  3. ^ Packel, John. "Peruvian Americans." Every Culture. (retrieved 2 May 2011)
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-03. Retrieved 2010-10-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit

  • [1] Province de Andahuaylas, Perú (Spanish)
  • [2] Discovering the Chanka