Collasuyu—High Plains and Herds
The second-largest suyu in the empire, Collasuyu covered southern Peru and parts of Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. Colla means “high plain.” Its extensive grassland was ideal for llama and alpaca herding. The region was also a source of salt, potatoes, gold, silver, and copper.
Expanding the Road, Expanding an Empire—Llamas for Transport
Collasuyu’s great herds of llamas and alpacas provided wool, meat, and, most importantly, transport. At harvest time, the road was especially busy with llama caravans. Before a caravan departed, the lead animal was blessed, and every llama was decorated.
Copper and Bronze
Long before the Inka became powerful, Andean cultures discovered bronze, which is made from copper mixed with other metals. The people of Collasuyu perfected a tin-bronze alloy that was harder than iron. The Inka treasured this metal, using it for axes and other tools.
Andean kilns, called wayranas, can maintain temperatures high enough to melt metals into various alloys. Master metallurgists then worked the alloys into tools or sacred objects.
Andeans have cultivated potatoes for thousands of years, domesticating hundreds of varieties that thrive in almost any climate. The Cochabamba region exported enormous quantities throughout Tawantinsuyu. Potatoes sustained the empire’s rapidly growing population, even when other crops failed.
Gold and Silver
Access to gold and silver mines was a major goal of Inka expansion into Collasuyu. Symbolic of the sun and the moon, these metals were sacred, and their use was restricted to religious purposes. Gold and silver objects were used as offerings or worn by Inka rulers, priests, and members of the royal family.