Source Area Description

The Quispisisa source lies in the valley of the Urabamba River at 4,000 meters above sea level in puna (high grassland) ecological zone. Following published descriptions of the first geo-archaeological prospection of the source area (Burger and Glascock 2000, 2002), we conducted multiple brief visits to the Quispisisa source area in order to collect geological samples of obsidian, explore any associated archaeological features, and conduct archaeological prospection in the surrounding area.  We further explored the area of the deposit encountered by Burger’s team, as well as investigating other outcrops in the region, in order to better document the extent and variability of Quispisisa type obsidian.

We have documented a much more extensive area of obsidian quarries, and identified >30 quarry pits (Tripcevich and Contreras 2011).  In general, the obsidian quarry pits are ellipsoidal features, carpeted with small discarded obsidian nodules and some flake debris; the pits range from 15 m to 45 m across, and often have substantial berms of excavated material downslope. Those documented thus far are spread over an area of 90 hectares, and comprise in total a mined surface of at least 13,000 m2 and an estimated excavated volume of at least 32,000 m3.  We identified few traces of occupation nearby, but located an extensive area of relict terracing, road networks, and archaeological sites containing dense obsidian deposits beginning 10 km downstream to the north at Colcabamba, in an area that has only been minimally surveyed and falls largely outside of the area covered by previous research in the region (Earls 1981; Valdez and Vivanco 1994).