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Journals from Universidad de San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) Ecuador

2013-02-08 Karanki Archaeological Site

 This semester I am taking a class called Ethno-history.  This discipline is a hybrid between Anthropology and History.  It uses document sources to learn about past events to answer questions about culture and people of the present.  As part of this class, we went on a field trip to an archeological site in Caranqui/Karanki, which is a town about 2.5 hours north of Quito in the province of Imbabura.


When we got to Karanki, we were shown into what looked like a yard.  At first glance, it looked like it was unkempt.  Our leader José Echeverría is the on-site archeologist, and he started by giving us history about finding the site, a little bit of history about Karanki, and some of the problems that they have faced.  Then he showed us an area that, at first glance, looked like a checkerboard of rocks, all of similar shapes and sizes.  Mr. Echeverría explained to us that they were trying to piece back together what might have been a religious area.  The stones were mostly ones that had been found in the site, but others had been carved by stonemasons to fill in the gaps.  By having a full picture, the archeologists have a better chance to figure out for what the area was used.  At one end of the religious area, there was a large stone, with a few holes in the top.  No archeologist is exactly sure what it was used for, but they have a couple of hypotheses.  One is that it was used to grind herbs and plants.  Another is that it collected water, and then that water was used as a mirror.  Still another theory is that it was used to catch rainwater to drink.


Then our guide showed us some of the canals that were built in this site.  The canals are very advanced.  There are open and closed canals that each serve a unique purpose.  The open canals, archeologists believe, were used to carry fresh water to drink.  The closed canals were used to carry dirty water, or irrigation water.  These canals can be found all around the site.


Finally, we were shown the main aspect of the site.  It was a large pool.  This is the largest ruin of its type to be found in all of Ecuador and Peru.  There are different theories about when this site was built.  One is that it was built by Huayna Capac to have a place for his newborn son Atahualpa to live as well as to celebrate a recent conquest.  He stated that if his son was born in that area, he would be raised there.  The other theory is that Atahualpa build the site to honor is father, Huayna Capac, who had recently died.  The exact use of the pool is unclear, however, although archeologists believe that it was potentially used for religious rituals or for rituals of purification.


Before leaving, our guide explained to us that all of the pipes lying around the site were given by the government so that there could be a cover built over the site so that it would last for many more years.  Unfortunately, the items that were given were not sufficient to make a sturdy cover, so it collapsed, and the archeologists do not want to set it back up, especially if it is not what they want.


I am amazed that in just under two hours at this archeological site I learned so much about not only the site, the area, but also Ecuador.  I was able to use the knowledge that I had learned in my classes last semester to better understand what José Echeverría told us.  What a great trip!  I would not have learned nearly as much if I had visited Karanki without the class, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.


Linnaea Funk

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