Bushnell Memorial Lecture 2016

How did the Inka think?
Machu Picchu center

Terence N. D’Altroy

Loubat Professor of American Archaeology
Columbia University

Friday 29 April 2016, 5.30pm

Mill Lane Lecture Theatre 3

There will be a drinks reception at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology after the lecture.

The century-long Inka empire was the grandest polity ever seen in the indigenous Americas, encompassing about 12 million people in a territory of 1 million sq km. Latecomers to power in the Andes, the Inkas’ success drew from their ability to master both the organizational and intellectual aspects of imperial rule. The more obvious element was the domination of millions of people and the Andes’ resources, by imposing military control, establishing sustainable governance, and building a vast support infrastructure. In a parallel endeavor, the Incas imposed their own notions of cosmic and social order on the world at large, trying to make themselves the indispensable intermediary between humanity and all other powers. This paper takes up the second issue, examining how the Inkas thought the world worked and how to be successful within it. Among the key ideas that contributed to practical rule were their notions of life and death (and the role of perpetually vital human ancestors), a mutable past, animate materials, and a living landscape with which they shared social space. Those ideas help us to understand how the Inkas managed information in a land without linguistic writing or a multi-year calendar, and only a modest range of graphical representation of any other kind.

Terence D'Altro on Macchu Picchu

Terence D’Altroy on Macchu Picchu









Terence N. D’Altroy is the Loubat Professor of American Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and the founding Director of the Center for Archaeology at Columbia University in the City of New York. He received his BA from the University of Michigan (1972), and his MA (1975) and PhD (1981) from the University of California, Los Angeles, all in Anthropology. In 2016, he received the Columbia University Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Award. His research interests lie in the study of empires, especially the Inkas of Andean South America, with a focus on the organization and thinking underpinning their rule. Since 1969, he has conducted fieldwork in Peru, Argentina, the United States, and Mexico. He has written or (co-)edited several books, including The Incas (2015, 2d ed.), The Incas: Inside an American Empire (2004), Empire and Domestic Economy (2002), Empires (2002), and Provincial Power in the Inka Empire (1992), in addition to numerous scholarly papers.

Terence D'Altro on Macchu Picchu

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