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The Ancient Kingdoms of Peru Paperback – January 1, 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Nigel is also the author of The Ancient Kingdoms of Mexico.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140233814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140233810
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,243,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Davies' book on the ancient 'kingdoms' of Peru covers several key pre-Spanish cultures and civilizations in the Andean highlands -- among them Chavin, Moche, Nazca, Tiahuanaco, Huari, Chimu, and Inca -- and highlights several important archaeological sites, citing both contemporary Spanish sources and more recent discoveries. He presents a decent overview of these peoples' buildings, monuments, mythologies, and artwork in readable prose. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of the Incans, which I thought was pithy but comprehensive.

However, I found the discussion of all but the Incans lacking in quite a few areas: agriculture (how did these people feed themselves, how advanced were their hunting/fishing techniques, domestication technologies, irrigation), mastery of materials (which cultures harnessed copper, which bronze, etc.), to name a few. Pre-Chavin cultures such as Norte Chico were omitted entirely. Moreover, he mentions a few facts which seem oddly incongruous with accepted anthropology, and are at best misleading. For instance:

(1) He describes the Incan capital of Cuzco as 'often conceived as a mountain lion', with one part of the city supposedly named for 'the lion's tail' in Quechua. Conceived by whom? I didn't know Panthera leo was indigenous to the Andes? Could the 'lion' have referred to another feline species?

(2) In his discussion of Incan commoners, he mentions their basic food as chuno, which was 'mixed with water, salt and pepper'. The modern notion of salt-and-pepper contains various species of Piper which grew exclusively in South India. It is more likely he meant Schinus molle, or Peruvian pepper, which was prepared differently.

(3) In his discussion of Incan bridges, he describes the 'sides of one bridge' as 'so carefully crafted that even if a horse fell on all fours, it could not tumble off'. This is misleading as there are no horse species indigenous to the Americas.
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A very helpful book on pre-Conquistador and also Pre-Inca Peru. Most people only associate the Incas with Peru, but the Incas ruled for less than 100 years and they were brutal to their defeated brethren (removing the bones of one chief in order to make a drum). Many fascinating and cuturally deep nations made up Peru over the centuries. The Moche, the Nasca and others with advanced building, art work and more. The Incas were not very good at art, but were smart on governance, once tribes were defeated (those that surrendered quickly were kept to assist in the governance).

The Incas were in the midst of a civil war when the Spanish came, which made it very easy (relatively) to conquer. The conquest was brutal, but less than the Incas over the other tribes. We tend to forget that.

The conquest turned inward and the Spaniards fought themselves over and over so that almost all the leaders were killed by other Spaniards.

A good book that assisted me with learning more. I would recommend this as a first or second read to learn more about early Peru. It probably might not help someone that knows a great deal already about the history of Peru, but it did help me.
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This book, at times, has all the excitement of the "Begats" in the Bible; drier than the Andean mummies. Only the Inca period displays any semblance of humanity and life. A checklist style of writing does little to hold interest. I have read other books on this fascinating subject which were far more reader-friendly. True, much more needs to be discovered and understood about these cultures lacking written languages, but better presentations can be, and have been, made. Sadly, I can not recommend this book.
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Prior to a trip to Peru I also purchased this book to learn more about the varied ancient cultures that are in evidence at Nazca, Machu Picchu, Sipan and other sites throughout Peru.

The author discusses most of the early cultures of Peru but tends to dwell on the pottery designs with additional forays into the architecture and art but not much else. I tended to think that his expertise may have been in these areas but would have appreciated a wider perspective. Perhaps that is not possible from what is available in the archeological record. I found my interest lagging a bit as I forged through all the changes in pottery from one culture to the next.

Occasionally there were more absorbing sections of the book when the author was able to supplement the pottery record with tales of grave robbers and for example the fascinating discovery of the Lord of Sipan tomb. The book became a far better read as he discussed the era of the Incas, and this section was quite engaging, it almost seemed to be written by another author.

I would have found the inclusion of more maps of the sites discussed in the book to be of great help in understanding the cultures, more pictures and illustrations also could benefit a future edition.
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This book delves into the many early cultures of Peru with some appreciation for those civilizations' contributions to the world. I didn't find the photos very helpful, and would have appreciated more maps.
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I bought this book in preparation for a trip I was taking to Peru. I wanted to understand a bit about where I was traveling. Davies' style is reasonably conversational, considering the academic nature of the subject. Thus I was pleased to be able to read the book without wishing I was doing something else.
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