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The tribe existed largely around the Tumebamba area, sometimes referred to as the "second Cuzco", because the Cañaris (along with Incan influence and mandates) construction was to rival that of the Incan capital Cuzco. Tumebamba reportedly had impressive and beautiful architecture very much similar to that in Cuzco.
During the Inca Civil War between the sons of Huayna Capac, the Cañaris chose to support the cause of Huáscar, despite being positioned in the northern area inherited by the son and heir Atahualpa. Initially Huáscar's generals Atoc and Hango were successful, defeating Atahualpa's army, capturing much of Atlahualpa's army plus the larger cities of Cajamarca and gaining the supportTumipampa.
Aided by his father's loyal generals, Atahualpa managed to rout the Huáscaran army in the battles of Mullihambato and Chimborazo. This forced the interlopers back to the south. He captured and executed Huascars generals and massacred the Cañaris once he reached Tumebamba. He burned that city to the ground and massacred its inhabitants.