Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Face of an Incan Girl

With only 2 days more in Peru we are looking forward to the rest of the summer with family and friends in Utah. In some ways it has been a long twenty two months missing kids and grandkids. In other ways the weeks have gone by quickly. There are still more topics I would like to write about, updates from Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley where we were earlier this week. We have been traveling again with friends from Utah as well as making our farewells.
With Austin and Raul at Machu Picchu this week. It was another beautiful
day in one of the most beautiful places in the world. 
Last week we visited Arequipa for the first time and enjoyed several days with Brother and Sister Ramos. They too were missionaries in the Lima Temple with us. She is an outstanding cook and we enjoyed so much the wonderful flavors of Arequipa she prepared. The region is known for its excellent food in addition to the incredible scenery of a nearby (presently dormant) volcano and other mountain peaks surrounding the city.
In the cocina of the Ramos. We enjoyed rocoto rellenos, chupes de 
camerones, chicharones, pastel de papas and a few more dishes. 
El Misti towers in the background of Arequipa. We were allowed to climb
to the roof of the main cathedral and take this photo near the bell tower. El 
Misti is almost 20,000 feet in elevation. Its last eruption was in 1985
Arequipa is known as the Ciudad de Blanco or the "white city" because of the beautiful white volcanic stone so many of the buildings are constructed from. The Main Cathedral of Arequipa is constructed of this stone known as "sillar." The craftsmanship is superb and represents the best from the colonial period.
The Main Cathedral of Arequipa. Construction started 
when the city was founded in1540 and has been ongoing 
as earthquakes as recent as 2001 destroyed portions of the 
bell towers and damaged the building. 
Without a doubt the highlight of trip, in terms of Peruvian history, was visiting the Catholic University's Museum. Commonly it is known as "Juanita's Museum." It stirred my interest in high altitude archaeology. Upon downloading the discoverer Johan Reinhard's account, I had the Kindle version of his book read in a few days. He and his climbing teams have discovered, throughout the Andes, the remains of some 20 Incan sacrificial victims. Most of them were young girls, but also a few boys. For the first time intact human remains have been recovered for preservation and scientific study. None of these remains of Inca children were artificially preserved. Burial in high altitude remote frozen landscapes preserved them naturally. Several sites his team had visited saw evidence of grave robbers and even the use of dynamite to open these frozen burials to find the gold and silver statues accompanying the victims.
Known as the "Momia Juanita" to Peruvians, she was discovered on Mt.
Ampato in 1995. She was between 11 and 15 years of age when sacrificed.
Time Magazine named her as one of the ten most important scientific 
discoveries in the world.
Preliminary DNA studies most closely linked her to an indian tribe in Panama but subsequent additional data suggests she was from the Andes.
National Geographic Explorer in residence Dr. Johan 
Reinhard on the summit of Mt. Llullaillaco in the 
Argentine Andes.  From this location the very best and
most intact mummies were recovered. 
The most remarkable find of Dr. Reinhard were mummies found subsequently to the Ice Maiden Juanita, across the Chilean border in the Argentine Andes. These mummies had their internal organs intact with blood still in the heart and lungs. Skin and facial features were undamaged and for the first time we can know what an Inca girl looked like from 500 years ago. The Inca sacrificed their unblemished children to the gods of the mountains not to propitiate their anger but to enter the realm of the gods and live with them carrying messages. It was deemed to be a great honor for the victim and her family. These sacrifices, according to the Spanish chroniclers, were generally associated with specific events in the life of the Incan emperor. Human sacrifice seems to be something practiced world wide in antiquity and not limited to the Inca or their predecessors. In terms of comparison to the Maya and the Aztec the Inca were far more restrained with their human sacrifice. Llamas and alpacas being the more common sacrifice. The meat afterword consumed in the day's festivities, not unlike temple activities in ancient Israel.
The ice maiden of Argentine Andes, known as "La Doncella" appears to be
only asleep.  She is the best preserved of any mummified remains recovered
anywhere in the world. 
The bodies of two other children were found near the summit of Mt. Llullaillaco in addition to La Doncella in 1999 by Dr. Reinhard and his assistants.  Because of her elaborate clothing and headdress, not shown, she was probably an "aclla" or Sun Virgin. She was chosen, as was Juanita, as a toddler to live with other girls and women who could become royal wives, priestesses, and sacrifice victims. In order to assure compliance the sacrifice victims were drugged with fermented corn beer and coca. Juanita suffered massive blunt force trauma to the forehead. The cause of death of La Doncella remains somewhat a mystery, though results published only this week suggest she had a major pulmonary infection. Coupled with the shock or trauma associated the event and with the elevation of more than 22,000 feet it may have spelled her doom. Having been in Cusco for several days at 1l,000 feet I am uncertain how anyone navigates at twice that level. She also had several white hairs in her neatly braided hair. At her young age scientists speculate they were the result of stress in her life. Incan families willingly though gave their children to the emperor as it was esteemed to be a great honor to the family. Her DNA was so well preserved it was the equivalent of testing that of a living person. Studies confirm she was from somewhere near the Colca Canyon not far from where Juanita was found on Mt. Ampoto in Arequipa region.
The double jammed doorway leads from a very special
location in Machu Picchu, likely it was used by the Sun 
Virgins or Aclla. They would learn the skills of making
textiles, cooking, weaving clothing for the emperor, and
serving in the temples. 
Hair samples studied from La Doncella show the presence of cocaine and its heavy use among the select children of the Inca suggesting it was an important part of their rituals, certainly for those involved in human sacrifice. The levels of cocaine in her system were three times as high as any of 350 other samples taken from Andean mummies. Artificial mummification was practiced widely throughout the reign of the Inca and their predecessors. Mummies were worshiped and cared for as though they were still present and active members of the Incan society.
Dr. Reinhard and the Ice Maiden Juanita atop Mt. Ampato
The high altitude archaeological work performed by Dr. Reinhard and his associates has been invaluable and ranks, rightfully so, among the greatest discoveries of the modern era. We know what an  Incan girl looked like from 500 years ago and now a good deal more about her life and her culture. For the indigenous peoples of the Andes these discoveries are important, much more so than for a few grave robbers to cash in on the artifact market. As museums have been constructed and visitors pay to see these cultural exhibits everyone benefits. Local artisans now exhibit and sell their crafts where once they were ignored being too far from the beaten tourist trail. Cultural exhibitions including dance, fairs, and ritual ceremonies have been organized and held for promoting a rebirth of ancient Andean culture. The unique information gathered from these mummies serves to educate the world about a most remarkable ancient civilization. To summarize Dr. Reinhard, "In the imaginations of children, mummies are second only to dinosaurs and their educational potential appears to be unlimited. A mummy is a magnet and can be used as a teaching tool on many subjects, including archaeology, geography, human biology, conservation, and the environment. These are true time capsules that allow, a view into the past that cannot be be obtained by any other means."  My personal thanks to Dr. Reinhard and others like him who have worked so tirelessly to preserve the past. Through his efforts a new branch of high altitude archaeology has emerged and knowledge of the Incan past is now much better understood. Largely, his work and understanding of the role and importance of mountains and mountain deities explains the function and place of Machu Picchu to the Inca. His web site has numerous PDF's of articles he and his associates have published. I am also interested in his study and interpretation of the famous lines of Nazca. It is on the schedule of things to read, but it won't be here in Peru.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Inca Religion and Myths

Huaina Pichu shrouded in the background above Machu
Picchu. The myths of the past of Peru are equally shrouded. 
We had a recent FHE assignment here amongst the North Americans.  We meet twice a month and wanted to do something special.  RA prepared 19 varieties of native fruits that are available right now in our local grocery store.  They included mango, guanabana, pineapple, pepino melon, biscocho bananas, yakon, guava, lucuma, mamey, tuna rojo, aguaymanto, tamarindo, kaki, star fruit, chirimoya, maracuya, granadilla, and cocona, and albaricoque.  I thought a few could have benefited by the addition of a little vanilla ice cream, but I was overruled.  Since the fruit refreshments were not my portion of the evening's entertainment I could not say anymore.
Kaki fruit as they are known here and in Japan. In the US we call them
Maracuya and Granadilla.  Everyone's favorite, at least ours are the mangos.
The season is over this year and we will pass them. 
It has been fascinating to study Inca and Pre-Inca traditions and myths going back 5,000 years. Some themes are consistent with other ancient traditions from the Middle East and Asia.  Joseph Campbell would suggest the similarities in these worldwide myths would be the consequence of what Carl Jung called the "collective unconscious" mind, something on the order of Freud's "archaic remnants."  Brother Nibley would be at odds with Campbell and Freud as to the origins of the universal myths and the similarities of myth throughout all ancient civilizations.  To quote Brother Nibley, "It already appears that he ancient myths, wherever they turn up, have a tendency to fit together into the same picture, confirming and supporting each other due to the solid ground on which they stand... This leads us to conclude here is a serious historical reality behind the myths as a whole, in spite of the adjusting and romancing that sometimes effaces them beyond recognition."
Less than a thousand khipu survive today. Most are thought to have
been used for accounting as they are organized into the decimal system.
More complex khipu may contain words but that is yet to be determined. 
Sorting out the past Pre-Spanish and even Pre-Inca with respect to myths and religious traditions is difficult. It was estimated when the conquistadores arrived in the North of Peru there were approximately 700 different languages and cultures here, all under Incan rule. Three languages remain today, Aymara, Quechua and of course Spanish. The Inca like any victorious conqueror rewrote the history books and adapted the past to fit their world view and support their dynastic rule. A major problem in all of the Andean past is there was never a written language. History most likely was preserved through the telling of oral traditions. Khipu, the strange knotted cords of the Inca and earlier peoples served as nemonic helps to recall these events of the past. A team of Harvard scholars may prove otherwise. Using very large and fast computers some progress has been made in deciphering the khipu. At least one numerical address, akin to a zip code of a city or district, has been deciphered. In Central America the written languages of several groups including the Maya have been successfully translated. Unraveling the history especially the religious beliefs proves very difficult as there was no written language and both the Inca and the Spanish adjusted and changed the past to justify their rule. Particularly the Spanish were the more egregious as they committed what amounted to cultural genocide upon the indigenous peoples of the New World.
Dried potatoes or chuño. They are also called papa seca or dried potatoes.
Climate change and freeze dried potatoes, called papas secas, or chuño, according to a few scholars, explains why the Inca armies were able to sweep over and conquer the western Andean regions of South America in such a short period of time, approximately 100 years.  Potatoes are still freeze dried much in the same way they have been done for many millennia.  These freeze dried potatoes are relatively high in nutrition and have a shelf life of up to three years without further refrigeration.  Their light weight allowed them to be carried on the backs of soldiers and llamas as the armies were moving through their empire.  Climate conditions weakened the economies of coastal communities but the higher elevation of the Inca with ample rainfall and moisture gave them sufficient foodstuffs to conquer the areas suffering famine. The Inca were astute enough bargainers to offer food to any peoples who would accept their rule.  One scholar estimates that Inca had five years worth of food storage at any one time for all of the inhabitants of the empire.  Even today, many fields - estimated between 25% and 50% of those that were once used by the Inca - remain unused.
The terraces of Ollantaytambo, a royal Inca city, once grew corn and many
other crops. This site was abandoned before the conquistadores ever set foot in
Peru. Smallpox and other European diseases decimated the Inca population
ahead of them.
Wherever the Inca took control of another society the local gods and myths were recognized and maintained along with the official state Incan religion of sun worship.  To legitimize the rule of the Inca, the Sapa Inca, or head Inca, was advanced as the direct descendant of the Sun God Inti.  Viracocha was acknowledged as the creator god, though Inti would take preeminence in time.  It did get complicated with the addition of many local gods to the pantheon by the time the Inca were extending their rule.
Viracocha the chief God of a number of Pre-Inca societies.
In his right hand he caries a serpent. 
The near universal myths of creation, deluge, and the hero's journey are to be found amongst the Inca and their predecessors.  According to the various versions of Inca legends Viracocha came forth from a cave on the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca with his two sons and began the creative process.  He breathed on large stones and turned them into giants who first populated the land.  Because they were sometimes disobedient in the days of Noah, (as the OT story goes,) he sent forth a flood and drowned them all.  He started afresh with the current race of humans and the first Incas emerged. Traveling north he created other peoples and taught them.  He wore robes, was bearded, and carried a staff.  Among the earliest cultures are representations of this god carrying a staff.  A shard of dried inscribed squash portrays the staff god, among the Norte Chico of Caral, approximately 3,000 B.C.
The stone giants at Tiawanaku. This site was one of the five most important
for the Inca even though it was created before the rise of their empire. It is 
on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. We had permission to visit it but ran
out of time. 
Serpientes, or serpents were an important symbol utilized universally among the Inca and their predecessors.  As Moses had fashioned a brass serpent to raise and allow the children of Israel to be healed, so the serpent is associated with divine events and religious practice.  I asked my good friend Cesar if the serpent had any positive meanings in Inca history and he said that it did not.  The Inca have nothing equivalent to the Caduceus of the medical establishment in our culture. The serpent represented the underworld of departed dead, though it is featured prominently as part of the decoration and representation of the various gods. Moses and Pharaoh's magicians used serpents to represent the power of their gods.
The male side of the Pachacamac Totem. The 
Spanish came to this site looking for gold and
found nothing of value to them. They toppled
the totem and set fire to his temple. 
Throughout all of the ruins we have visited in Peru the theme of duality or opposites, has been symbolized in stone or carving.  The creator god Pachacamac of the Lurin area, south of Lima, is both male and female. Other civilizations illustrated their gods with both female and male organs. The concept of a feminine deity is not foreign to ancient Hebrew and middle eastern cultures. Mormons early in this dispensation were taught about a mother in heaven though orthodoxy struggles with that concept. All are familiar with Eliza Snow's lines, penned in Nauvoo, and set to music.  One of the Hebrew names for god is El Shaddai, which means "breasted one." In Genesis 17:1, 28:3, and 48:3 the name El Shaddai is used in association with descriptions of God as a nourisher or supplier of good things.  Female and male representations are more common than not in the stones and carvings of ancient Peru.
RA and I at the Pachacamac site. It is mostly of stone and some adobe. The 
Inca added additional temples and structures to it. Even today travelers still
come especially in August and leave offerings such as chicha and coca leaves. 
A Swedish scholar who has studies the religious and cosmological themes of the Pre-Colombian Peru notes:  A fundamental principle in Andean cultures is that of duality.  The principle of dualism permeates the lives of indigenous Andeans; it is a world view according to which people, society, the cosmos and other aspects of life are divided into complementary parts.  the harmon of the universe depends on the controlled inter-relationship between the halves." (Professor Daniel Rosengren, University of Gothenberg, Sweden)
The image of the staff god incised on a dried squash gourd. The color of
the inset was changed to highlight his features. His right terminates in the
head of a snake. 
The Quechua words for this duality of harmony and opposites are "yanantin and masintin."  The Spanish made every effort to remove this concept from the Inca and other indigenous peoples.  Due to the religious taboo,  these words are discouraged from use even today in rural Quechua speaking Peru.
Sechin Alto Temple Complex with the two staircases and light and dark
stones at the entrance. The site dates to approximately 2000 BCE and is
near Chimbote about 200 miles north of Lima

With regard to this duality, I am reminded from the Book of Mormon of Lehi's words to his son Jacob:  "And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents. and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.  Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should at for himself.  Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was entice by the one or the other."  2 Nephi 2:15-16
The Pyramide Mayor at Caral is one of the oldest temple sites in all of the
Americas. Note the dark and lighter stones uncovered by the archaeologists
at the entrance of the second level of stairs. 
I had never before thought of this concept of the two trees of knowledge with its forbidden fruit and the tree of life being emblematic illustrating the Inca/Quechua concept of opposites and harmony.
Cancer survivor and a stroke victim both, Dr. Christensen teaches about
life's riches experiences involving opposites in his new book. We heard him 
lecture in NYC at a business conference on his business theories. 
I was interested recently reading the reviews of a Harvard business professor's new book, How Will You Measure Your Life?  His work is recognized worldwide.  The fact that he is a friend of Mitt Romney should not be held against him.  Andy Grove and Intel, because of his influence, developed the Celeron family of microprocessors. RA and I heard him lecture a few years ago in New York.  He too understands as did the ancients the nature of duality and opposites.  He said.  "In the scriptures, we are told you can't really understand happiness unless you understand sadness.  You don't know pleasure if you don't know pain.  It's part of lie.  So can you learn something from somebody who has gone from success to success to success?  I don't think so.  It has to be somebody who has failed and failed and succeeded and succeeded."  Dr. Clayton Christensen
The entrance to the Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo.
Some of the granite used on this site is porphyry and very
old being thrust up with the Andes Mountains.  
There is much more to write about other than to repeat again how much we are going to miss Peru. One practice or belief must be noted in closing.  For the Inca, babies that are born with handicaps or birth defects were treated as special messengers from the Gods. As such they were given a special and elevated status in Inca society and treated well. Other than perhaps human sacrifice, life under the Inca was probably better than most contemporary cultures and certainly better than the colonial period that would follow under the Viceroy of Peru and the King of Spain.
Where else in the world could you dine on barbecued cuy? 
I am not sure we could have gone anywhere else in the world where we could have had the experiences that we have enjoyed in thus land of 10,000 temples, huacas, or religious sites.  We have been very fortunate to have worked in the Lima Peru Temple with people we dearly love, respect and admire.  They are largely a group without great wealth by any worldy measure, but as a whole they are among the wealthiest and happiest of people.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy 62 RuthAnn!

To celebrate RuthAnn's birthday I thought I would post some of our favorite photos and a few personal comments.

Remembering Hna. Sense, (pronouced Sensay), at her little stall in La Parada
She wanted to give us some mangos.

At the archaeological site known as Aspero. It dates to 3200 BC. It is the
oldest urban center and temple complex found to date in Peru and all of the 
We are at a gift shop in Tucume.  This was part of a complex of ruins known'
as the Sican Lambayeque, dating between 800 and 1300 CE.  The lady
with RA made this small tea dispenser and box. 
Accompanied by some school kids we stopped and enjoyed the shade of 
this algorobo forest. It was a beautiful oasis. Carob beans grow on these trees. 

It was time to treat them to fruit smoothies when we were finished with our tour. 
Having lunch with Walter one of our several favorite taxi drivers. The food
north of Lima is very very good. 
We visited a Pre-Inca site south of Lima known as Pachacamac. Can I say 
I think I take good photos?  Maybe it has to do with someone being very
happy here in Lima Peru. 
Above Cusco. It will be hard to leave all of this behind. 
Huayna Picchu in the background. It is family that will bring us back to Utah.
At Abel's baptism last week. Meeting the familia Palma has been one of our
special experiences in Peru. We are very happy for him. 
JT, James Taylor, is one of our favorite writers and performers. There are not any more JT concerts scheduled after our arrival home, at least at the present. This verse is for you on your birthday.

I feel fine anytime she's around me now,
She's around me now
Almost all the time.
If I'm well you can tell that she's been with me now,
And she's been with me now
Quite a long, long time -
Yes, and I feel fine. Happy Birthday RuthAnn!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Southern Cross and Life in Peru

"When you see the Southern Cross for the first time. You understand now why you came this way."  So goes the lyric from the song of the same name by Crosby, Stills and Nash.*
The Souther Cross. It is displayed on a number of flags of nations
 of the Southern Hemisphere even a soccer club in Brasil. 
We only recently saw the Southern Cross for the first time in Lima. Some are disappointed when they see it. We were not. I thought about many peoples over the millennia who have looked into the sky and wondered about it as I. Of course I was not on a raft or a boat using it for navigation purposes. From one astronomy site the host paraphrased the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke this way: "If you are bored by the constellation Crux, you are not yet poet enough to call forth its riches." Astronomical alignments and stargazing were one of the preeminent pastimes of the Andeans and ancient peoples everywhere. Other than my friend Watson I know few who look into the night time sky with direction and purpose. Farmers in the mountains of Peru still gaze into the heavens to determine coming weather cycles for planting their crops.  They do so with an accuracy equal to or better than KSL's Weatherbank meteorologists. 
The Chakana as it is crafted by Peruvian artisans in silver and precious stones
Stargazing was important enough for God to take Moses to a high mountain and show him the handiwork of his creation, heavens without number or end... from Moses Chapter 1:
37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. 
38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.
39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

The Crux, as it is generally called, was captured by the Inca as an important symbol in their religious life in the symbol known as the Chakana. At sunset the Chakana stone in  Machu Picchu casts a shadow completing the Crux or cross. This symbol represented to the Inca, the current world in which we live, the underworld, and the heavenly world where the gods dwell. The Chakana symbolizes, with its 12 sides among other things, the ethics of the Inca. They were: "I live, I work, I love," as well as "Don't lie, don't steal, and don't be lazy." They had in many respects an enviable world prior to the coming of the Europeans. 
The Chakana stone at Machu Picchu. When the shadow is correct at sunset the
cross is complete. 
The weather of Lima has been unusual and on the warm side this fall. Typically the city is enveloped in a foggy mist known as garua. This occurs during the six cooler months of any year. No rainfall occurs generally this time though we have experienced unusual rains and heavy on several occasions. We had contemplated getting into the mountains above Lima to do some stargazing. At last we were able to see the Crux here and on multiple nights. 
A view from our apartment  window
We don't know with a certainty why we came this way to Peru for these past 19 months. The experience has been a profound one.  We have learned a great deal about the early history of this incredible land. I have learned about life and love. We have gained a much deeper appreciation and respect for Peruvians. Yes, two attempts have been made, only recently, to snatch my IPhone, but even those episodes were carefully choreographed and almost executed with success. 
Our dear friend Sister Rosa. Her diligence for and joy of
working in the temple is an example for all of us. Her life
 is a very simple and humble one. She makes do with very
little but she is one of the richest people we know.
We have seen beautiful sites and shared them with family and friends. We have been touched and affected by the poverty and sacrifice of Peruvian members of the Church with whom we work daily. We know of folks who put health and security at risk to ride long distances on noisy and uncomfortable buses to come to the temple to work or to participate. In doing so they sometimes go without food, lunch, or supper for a day to be here. We see some of these folks in the worker's cafeteria enjoying their simple fare, a cup of water, maybe a piece of fruit, or a hard roll
Our friends the Cooks at Machu Picchu, February of 2011
With la familia Espinosa. They prepared a special feast for us. It probably 
broke their budget for groceries for a month. The pachamanca as it is
known included several varieties of meat, tamales, potatoes, beans,
humitas, and choclo or corn. 
Without any question the highlight of our experience here has been the friends we have made. We seem to have an affinity for taxi drivers, their families, in addition to our friends in the temple. It is with some hope that in 3 or 4 years when the next temple is opened in Trujillo Peru, health and other considerations allowing, we can return. 
My friend and my brother Cesar
Elder and Sister Ramos standing between President and Sister Lees. We
celebrated the Ramos 50th Wedding Anniversary and a few birthdays as 
well this past january. They soon leave for home in Arequipa completing 
their mission to the Lima Temple. Somos Arequipeños tambien. 
We miss everyone at home, kids, grandkids, family, and friends. Were it not for all of you, as I have suggested to RA on more than one occasion, I could spend the rest of my days in Peru.  Likely, it would be in Cusco, Trujillo, or Arequipa rather than Lima however. 
Thanks Kyle for introducing Peru into our family
A few tired touristas in Machu Picchu August 2011
Maybe one day we will understand why we came this way... *Thanks Em for the connection to the song by Crosby Stills and Nash.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What if the Inca had Conquered Europe?

We are at the late pre-ceramic site of Bandurria. The proximity to the rich
waters of the Pacific fueled the rise of this site some 3200 years BCE.
Last week on our day off we visited an ancient pre-ceramic site called Bandurria. It is part of the Caral Supe complex of ruins of the Norte Chico civilization along the north coast of Peru. These are among the oldest urban centers in the world and compete with another site further north as the very oldest in the Americas.  The pyramids at Bandurria and the older community at Aspero predate the construction of the Great Pyramid of the Egyptians at Giza by five hundred and one thousand years respectively. To date the competition of radiocarbon dating has put the ceremonial center near Casma Peru, called Sechin Bajo as the very oldest. We also have visited that site, though there is very little to see since the work is only recently underway.  One of the scholars investigating Sechin Bajo observed the construction was done by a people who had a "very good knowledge of architecture and construction." That suggests to me there are older sites that have not yet been uncovered, investigated, and carbon dated. The Norte Chico Civilization, dating to approximately 9500 BCE, is the very oldest of Peru. Likely, older sites will be discovered and forthcoming as funding becomes available.

The pyramid structure of Sechin Bajo

RuthAnn in front of one of the pyramids at Bandurria.

The major temple at Bandurria.  Our guide Miriam confirmed the themes
of duality and opposites are symbolized in the complex including a clay
image of the god they worshiped with both male and female representations. 
Contrary to traditional theories for the rise of civilization a few scholars 
suggest it was not agriculture that fueled the rise of these earliest urban 
centers, but the utilization of marine resources. The ground is full of the 
remnants of shells and bones. Maybe they enjoyed oysters and sushi. 
Most scholars believe that following the retreat of the last ice age some 15,000 years ago the coast of present day Peru became inhabited by neolithic peoples migrating over the Andes from the Amazon. These seacoast locations allowed for sufficient caloric intake from the rich waters of the Pacific to allow for community development and cooperation giving rise to these earliest centers of worship and urban organization. Bandurria is one of approximately thirty such sites of the Norte Chico civilization though they reached their height and flourished 3,000 to 1800 BCE.
The troops were starting to complain as we reached the top of this pyramid. 
Our guide suggested it was a sustained El Niño weather change that ended the Norte Chico culture and forced them into the hills perhaps becoming and giving rise to the Chavin Civilization. This culture existed, as near as scholars can determine, from 900 to 200 BCE. They began the first metal working and refining of gold and firing their pottery in kilns. One of the Chavin sites at Huantar was just in the news as archaeologists have determined that it like other ancient temples and sites in Malta and Turkey had the ability to alter the human voice as well as certain notes made by horms.  To get to Chavin Huantar is at best a 10 hour drive and can be tiring given bad roads and the desert coast of Peru before you start inland toward the mountains.
The major pyramid at Aspero, dating 3600 BCE. This site too existed
on the maritime diet afforded by the Pacific.
We yet hope to visit several sites in Peru and one in Arequipa, but our time now is limited. With the next temple maintenance closing in August, we expect to be with family on the northern coast of California. A site we would yet like to visit is in Colca Canyon of Peru and a site of one of the earliest human habitations known as Mollepunko Cave. Petroglyphs of tamed llamas are on the walls of the cave.  These date to 6,000 BCE.

Several llamas have been inscribed on the cave walls and one image shows
a cord tied around the neck of the animal. About the same time as the 
domestication of llama, guinea pigs or cuy were also domesticated. 
In Jared Diamond's epoch and Pulitzer Prize winning view of world history in  "Guns, Germs and Steel," he asks why world history should be like an onion? He tries to answer that question in his book peeling back the layers and offers theories that go beyond simple Darwinist or racial stereotyping.  I find his theories and conclusions to be nearly as informative and thought provoking as the writings of Joseph Campbell who teaches us about the rise of common myths and traditions throughout all of human history. Both of these authors have helped me understand Peru's history and its people. I am better able to understand, though I admit I am still coming to terms how a group of 168 organized thugs, otherwise known as the Conquistadores, could defeat the armies of the Incan empire, some quarter of a million men strong. It was about 'guns, germs, and steel,' though mostly it was germs, since most of the ruling elites of the Inca had succumbed to a virgin soil epidemic of smallpox two years before the arrival of the Spanish. At the time of Christopher Columbus' landing in the West Indies scholars estimate the combined indigenous population of the Americas were greater than that of Europe. So, why didn't the Inca or the Aztec or Maya invade Europe? With a little help from Photoshop I have put a descendent of Atahualpa on the balcony of  Buckingham Palace.  No longer are they the Royal Family, but the Imperial Incan Family. God save the Emperor!
The Emperor Huascar XIV shown with members of the Imperial Family at
a recent June 22 Solstice Celebration marking the Incan New Year.
Evolutionary biologist Diamond spent more than 30 years researching and studying in New Guinea becoming familiar with the people and their environment. Of these and other peoples he asks, "Why did wealth and power become distributed as they now are, rather than in some other way? For instance, why weren't Native Americans, Africans, and Aboriginal Australians the ones who decimated, subjugated, or exterminated Europeans and Asians?" I have asked those questions as many others who have traveled through Peru and begun to understand its history. Travelers though Mexico and Central America would also ask those same questions. 
Drawing of an 18th Century Slave Ship. Indigenous peoples around the
world who were subjugated, annihilated, and exterminated were viewed 
by the Europeans as evolutionary vestiges of earlier more primitive life 
forms, perhaps without human souls.  
The Europeans embraced the technology of iron and gunpowder, working metals and materials, to the subjugation of others.  Among the Inca and others in the Americas metal working was for decorative and religious purposes. Their weapons remained fashioned from wood and stone. As the room in Cajamarca was being filled with gold and silver to pay the ransom for Atahualpa's release the Inca could not understand the unquenchable and insatiable desire the Spanish had for gold and precious metals. Though there are ancient iron mines in Peru, as far as any scholar can confirm, there was no working of iron or steel.  The iron ore was used for cosmetics and the dyeing of textiles. An oxide for of iron called hematite/magnetite was used extensively by the Inca and other peoples. Evidence also suggests that meteoric iron and nickel were used in pre-Colombian America. Hematite and its magnetic cousin magnetite are much harder than iron or granite and were used in the shaping of the beautiful construction stones of the Inca Imperial era found in Machu Picchu, Cusco and other sites. 
The caption reads a "Necklace of gold with beads of LapisLazuli and Cacao."
This type of decorative use of precious stones and gold was typical of a 
a people known as the Lambayeque who preceded the Inca by centuries. 
The image of the Lord of Sipan of the Moche Culture is shown in this 
gold spider medallion. The Moche or Mochica preceded the Inca by
five hundred years. The medallion is not just evidence of their art but also
of soldering and metal alloying. The gold is hardened with copper but
worked to preserve the luster and beauty of the gold. The ability to do this
type of gold alloying was not discovered in Europe until centuries later. 
The jewelry of the Lord of Sipan, a Moche ruler from the most spectacular
tomb uncovered in the Americas, illustrates the decorative uses of gold and
metal working of the indigenous peoples of Peru. 
The question arises, and historians will grapple with it for a very long time -- why did the Europeans embrace metal working and iron for the advancement of weaponry and domination in their quest for guns, manufactured items, and steel, while the Inca and others thought of it only in decorative terms?
The so called 'ransom room' where the Inca filled the room once with gold
to a height of 8' and twice with silver to secure the release of the emperor.
He was sentenced to death anyway and was garroted rather than being
burned at the stake for being a heretic. 
At the time that Pizarro began his search for more empire to conquer for God, King and his personal fortune he did encounter a heavily laden Incan ship off the coast of Ecuador. It was the discovery of that ship and the captives that he took back to Panama wherein he would learn of the riches of the Inca. Scholars suggest this Incan craft was the size of a Spanish caravelle.  I am uncertain what size of ship that is, but certainly more than the reed boats used on the coasts for fishing. Might they have made Atlantic and Pacific crossings?  The historical evidence suggests such and had been happening for many centuries even thousands of years before the Inca. Peruvian cocaine and tobacco were found in Egyptian mummies dating to 1100 BC. Certainly such transoceanic crossings were made by at least several early peoples.
Astonishing, so much so, even the Spanish troops
wet themselves as they waited for the command
to attack the Inca in the square at Cajamarca. 
Professor Diamond suggests the immediate factors that enabled the Europeans to kill and conquer other peoples were indeed guns, infectious diseases, steel tools, and their manufactured products, but they do not provide a complete understanding and do not explain why Native Americans or Africans were the ones not to end up with guns, the nastiest germs and steel? Our trips around Peru to various archaeological sites and accompanying museums define and illustrate the intelligence, creativity, and abilities of the numerous civilizations and cultures here. Cotton was domesticated here and used by the inhabitants of Bandurria and Aspero in weaving textiles and fishing nets  more than 5,000 years ago. The museums are loaded with precious metals skillfully and beautifully made, but never done in the context of the Europeans. Iron was used by at least one group of pre-Hispanic people in Central America, the Olmecs, but did not continue to their successor states.

Also, on my Kindle library waiting to be read is William McNeil's "The Rise of the West." Perhaps Professor McNeil will explain why the West/Europe was able to succeed the earlier states of China, India, the Mongols, and Islam. Therein lies the answer, in the relationship of one state to another as civilization moved from east to west, one building upon the other. In the Americas there was a largely independent development from the retreat of the last ice age to the arrival of the Europeans.  Left alone to develop they would have neither the benefit of Greek thought, Islamic algebra and philosophy and Chinese gunpowder, nor iron from Anatolia post the Bronze Age.

If the Spanish had not arrived when they did would those in the Americas have entered at some point an age of iron and manufacturing? Atahualpa had in mind to capture the Spanish, geld a few to guard his harem, kill the rest of them, but to breed their horses. No one can say if he had any interest in their guns and steel.

Jared Diamond sums up his book with one sentence: "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples' environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves." Such are the quandaries and questions of an idle mind on a warm Lima Sunday afternoon. The fans are on and the windows are open.