Andean Civilization

A good general picture of Andean culture can be found in Moseley (1992). For Spanish speakers, there is the excellent summary of Bonavia (1991). Andean culture is dominated by the extreme geographic variation of the area. A narrow coastal plain, largely formed of desert sands, except where dissected by fertile river valleys, is bordered by the ocean to the west and two towering mountain ranges to the east. The more western and somewhat lower Sierra Negra overshadows the ocean, whereas the snow-capped Sierra Blanca rises behind. Still farther east, the mountains slope down to the Amazonian rain forest. In this inhospitable region, a scattered population of hunters and fishers gradually became more stable. Villages arose, particularly along the coast. From about 3500 b.c., domesticated cotton was used for fibers and various local plants began to be grown to supplement the food supply. Local potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, peanuts, and a wide variety of crops still little known outside the area were grown. In the coastal waters, there were fish in abundance. Seals and sea-lions also supplied meat in many areas. At a very different level, a wide range of shell fish was an important source of food. By about 3000 b.c., large ceremonial structures were being built. Guinea pigs were already domesticated at this early date. Ceramics were in use in Colombia and Ecuador by 4000 b.c., but did not reach Peru until about 1800 b.c. The ample mineral resources of the Andes were utilized to make a wide range of decorations, symbols of authority, and tools with a rapidly developed series of metallurgical techniques. The sophisticated technologies were accompanied by increasingly dense populations and hierarchical social structures. Along the coast, large rafts were used in fishing, trade, and warfare. Great irrigation canals, constructed in the early centuries a.d., were major engineering structures. Road building became increasingly important, culminating in the massive stone roads and bridges linking the Inca empire. Goods were transported by domesticated llamas, which also provided wool for textiles and, on special occasions, meat.

There have been six major studies, which, taken together, throw a great deal of actual and potential light on Andean astronomy and cosmology. They are those of Zuidema (1964 and later works), Urton (1981a, b), Sullivan (1996), Donnan (1976, 1978), Hocquenghem (1987), and Bauer and Dearborn (1995). Zuidema (1964) wrote on the archeologi-cal and literary evidence for ceque lines. Urton (1981a, b) is a study of the role of astronomy in the modern Quechua village of Misminay. Although the emphasis is on the modern community, Urton does not hesitate to go back and forth between modern practices and beliefs and those of Inca times. He also draws on comparative data from the tropical forests to aid in understanding his material. Sullivan (1996) partly on the basis of similar field work, but also on the basis of myths and statements recorded in Spanish colonial times, has attempted to identify the planets and to show that the Andean ideas about the world ages were based on precessional phenomena. He relies heavily for basic interpretations on Santillana and von Dechend (1969), but goes far beyond in attempting to identify what he calls "preces-sional events," which can be specifically and precisely tied down astronomically to particular dates. Sullivan also includes a great deal of comparative material from Mesoamerica. Hocquenghem (1987) has equated Moche iconography with Incan materials. Bauer and Dearborn (1995) is a major study of Incan astronomical materials.

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