whom the chroniclers call Calchaqui, which is apparently the Quichuia ’kallchay-cuy, “irascible, ill-natured,” a signification very suitable to these natives, for their wars and revolutions continued with little intermission until they were finally exterminated in 1664.
A double question here arises: What was the affiliation of these Calchaqui? And were they the builders of the great structures of Catamarca and the begetters of its civilization?
It must be said that no satisfactory answer has yet been given to the first of these inquiries. We have, in fact, no positive relics of the language of the Calchaqui; not a word. I say this with full knowledge of the analyses of local names by Lafone Quevedo, Quirogo, and others. The latter concludes that they spoke the tongue called by the missionaries “Cacana,” and that this was related either to the Araucanian or to the Guaycuru dialects of the Chaco. The industrious student Florentino Ameghino argues from certain evidence that their tongue was a dialect of the Aymara; von Tschudi maintained that it was related to the modern Atacameño of the Pacific coast; while Dr. Th. Waitz set it down as a corrupt dialect of the Quichua. Such wide divergence among competent scholars proves only that the material is wanting to decide the question.
After all, it is of less interest than it would be, if we were to consider the Calchaqui as the exponents of the ancient culture. But of this there are grave doubts. The earliest explorers nowhere report them as a civilized people, and describe the land as filled with ruins when first visited. Therefore, von Ihering, Quiroga, and other archeologists incline to believe that the civilized builders of these remains had been overcome and dispossessed by wild and savage tribes long before the whites reached the region, very much as the mound builders of the Ohio valley had also succumbed to the inroads of barbarians, and fled or were exterminated.
All the archeologists agree in one point, and it has been es-
- Antigüedad del Hombre en La Plata; tom. ii., cap. xiii.