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The Ancient Kingdoms of Peru Paperback – January 1, 1998
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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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was needed for college. It was not in the bookstores. Amazon had a good price.Published on April 14, 2010 by Lee A. Trujillo Lopez
I have a emmence interest in the Lost Tribes and this book helped me in my studies.Published on May 13, 2007 by Arthur J. Roberts
A first-rate book for those traveling to Peru for the first time. Very factual and easy to read. A bit colorless, but it's a book full of information presented in a straight... Read morePublished on July 7, 2006 by C.R.
A well written very informative book which gives a good overview of precolumbian Peru. The starting point for everybody interested in this subject.Published on August 3, 2003 by Bruijns