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Studies in Exploration & Archaeology
by Vincent R. Lee, MFA, Architect
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CUZCO-TUYO: The Search for a Lost Inca Fortress

An important Inca fortress built by Topa Inca in the 15th century, overrun by forest cannibals in the 16th century, only to disappear from maps in the 17th, is finally rediscovered in Bolivia’s Serrania Cuzco-tuyo mountains


CUZCO-TUYO: The Search for a Lost Inca Fortress

CUZCO TUYO: The Search for a Lost Inca Fortress

At its maximum extent, the Andean empire of the Incas controlled everything from the Pacific Ocean to the Upper Amazon Basin, from southern Colombia to central Chile. The Incas maintained a “pax Incaica” within that vast area, but unrest was always a threat along the frontiers, especially in the north and the south.

In the Amazon, the forest tribes were typically held at bay by longstanding truce agreements with the highlanders.  An exception was in southeastern Bolivia, a rich, agricultural area called the “Charkas.”  The region and the imperial boundary there was defined on the east by the final range of the Andes, beyond which lay the “llanos,” or plains of present-day Paraguay, called the “Chaco.” There, lived the fierce tribal Guaraní, or “Chiriguano” Indians.

In 1525, seven years before Francisco Pizarro’s fateful landfall in northern Peru, a Portuguese adventurer named Alejo Garcia led a large force of Guaraní over the mountains and into the Charkas in search of loot. Among the various Inca sites they reportedly overran was the fortress of Cuzco-tuyo.  Word of the invasion soon reached the Inca Huayna Capac at his palace in Ecuador via his corps of message runners, and a large army was dispatched south to drive Garcia and his band back over the mountains to the Chaco.

Cuzco-tuyo was rebuilt and continued in use until the Spanish conquest of the region a decade later. But where was it?  By 1991, not even the local campesinos seemed to know. This is the story of its rediscovery in Bolivia’s mysterious Serrania Cuzco-tuyo mountains.

This paper was also published in The Explorers Journal, the official quarterly of the New York Explorers Club, Vol. 70, No. 4, Winter 1992, and in “The Great Wall of the Incas” in the “South American Explorer,” No. 72, Summer 2003.

$16.00 USD (includes domestic shipping)
21 pages · 4 photos · 12 drawings · soft cover

Take a look inside this publication

  • Inca fortifications discovered in the pass of Manchachi

3 sample images from this book
“CUZCO-TUYO: THE SEARCH FOR A LOST INCA FORTRESS” © 1992 Vincent R. Lee, all rights reserved