Contisuyu—The Road to the Sea
Building the Road
Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. Its name comes from the idea that the canyon forms one immense storehouse or granary (colca). Many of its slopes have been reshaped by terracing.
Colcas—Storehouses for an Empire
Surplus food, clothing, raw materials, and other items were kept in state storage facilities called colcas. Colcas were part of the Inka system of collecting food and goods from every suyu and redistributing them among the empire’s inhabitants. This system guaranteed the survival of the empire and its people in years when harvests were poor.
More than 1,000 colcas—the largest group known—have been found at Mawkallaqta, Peru.
There are houses that store contributions brought to the chiefs as tribute.... Feathers...shields, armor, utensils, footwear, copper plaques to cover house walls, knives and other tools, breastguards for soldiers...all in such quantity.
Contisuyu gave Cusco direct access to the ocean and its riches, including fish, shells, seaweed, and wanu (guano, seabird droppings used as fertilizer).
A highly coveted wild cotton grew in the coastal valleys of Contisuyu. Strong, thick, resilient, and durable, it was used to make sturdy textiles, blankets, fishing nets, and ropes. The Inka state closely controlled its production, distribution, and consumption.
The wild cotton of Contisuyu changes color as the plant matures, producing shades of white, tan, brown, and gray.