By the time of Columbus, the people of Ecuador's tropical highlands had created small but remarkably complex and interlinked political societies. These small societies for many years proved able to fight off the overwhelming might of the Inca state. But around 1500 they fell to Inca invaders who, in turn, soon lost their dominion to Spanish warlords. Frank Salomon draws on large stores of sources to reconstruct the political and economic institutions of pre-Inca societies. Their structure before and during the Inca interlude reveals diversity in the Andean world. Salomon provides remarkable insight into the functioning of these 'chiefdoms', emphasizing their importance for the understanding of rank, inequality, privilege and central power in stateless societies. He also contributes to our understanding of expansion, colonization, and the adaptive relationships between indigenous and imposed regimes in a context of precapitalist statecraft.