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The Life and Writings of Julio C. Tello

America's First Indigenous Archaeologist

Richard L. Burger

Publication Year: 2009

The father of Peruvian archaeology, Julio Tello was the most distinguished Native American scholar ever to focus on archaeology. A Quechua speaker born in a small highland village in 1880, Tello did the impossible: he received a medical degree and convinced the Peruvian government to send him to Harvard and European universities to master archaeology and anthropology. He then returned home to shape modern Peruvian archaeology and the institutions through which it was carried out. 

Tello’s vision remains unique, and his work has taken on additional interest as contemporary scholars have turned their attention to the relationship among nationalism, ethnicity, and archaeology. Unfortunately, many of his most important works were published in small journals or newspapers in Peru and have not been available even to those with a reading knowledge of Spanish. This volume thus makes available for the first time a broad sampling of Tello’s writings as well as complementary essays that relate these writings to his life and contributions.

Essays about Tello set the stage for the subsequent translations. Editor Richard Burger assesses his intellectual legacy, Richard Daggett outlines his remarkable life and career, and John Murra places him in both national and international contexts. Tello’s writings focus on such major discoveries as the Paracas mummies, the trepanation of skulls from Huarochirí, Andean iconography and cosmology, the relation between archaeology and nationhood, archaeological policy and preservation, and the role of science and museums in archaeology. Finally, the bibliography gives the most complete and accurate listing of Tello’s work ever compiled.

With its abundance of coups, wars, political dramas, class struggle, racial discrimination, looters, skulls, mummies, landslides, earthquakes, accusations, and counteraccusations, The Life and Writings of Julio C. Tello will become an indispensable reference for Andeanists.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

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pp. 1-4

In 1985 the executive committee of the Institute of Andean Research (IAR) met at the American Museum of Natural History. One of the items under discussion was how best to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary. The group, consisting of John Murra, Craig Morris, Heather Lechtman, and the author, considered what project...

Part One: Biographical Essays

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1. Julio C. Tello: An Account of His Rise to Prominence in Peruvian Archaeology

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pp. 7-54

Julio C. Tello was a world authority on Peruvian archaeology (Stewart and Peterson 1942:271). He has been described as an “Indian from the ranks and human dynamo, founder of three important museums and discoverer of culture after culture . . . [who] knows as much Peruvian archeology as the rest of us put...

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2. The International Relevance of Julio C. Tello

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pp. 55-64

In 1982 our peruvian colleagues celebrated the centennial of Julio C. Tello’s birth. Even during his lifetime, his contributions were widely appreciated both in his native country and abroad. If we check the two biographical notes published soon after his death (Mejía 1948; Lothrop 1948), we find that Tello’s ideas about the cultural...

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3. The Intellectual Legacy of Julio C. Tello

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pp. 65-88

John murra (chapter 2, this volume) has observed that few prophets have found so much acclaim in their own lands as Julio Cesar Tello. While this statement smacks of hyperbole, it is, in truth, an understatement. Virtually no person in Peru who has attended school, even at an elementary level, is unaware of Tello or his contributions...

Part Two: Selected Writings by Julio C. Tello

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4. The Defense of the Archaeological Heritage

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pp. 91-102

The excavations which have been carried out in Peru for some time in an eager rush to discover new evidences of vanished aboriginal civilizations deserve being taken under serious consideration by the government and by the well-informed public opinion of the country. In the interests of history, it is advisable to look at this subject not...

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5. The Museum of Peruvian Anthropology

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pp. 103-109

This ceremony is of great significance in our national life. A scientific institution is being hereby inaugurated for the purpose of conserving the relics of the antiquity of Peru, of studying and using them as they should be used in public education to strengthen national awareness, maintaining alive in the present generation the feeling of ethnic...

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6. Collision of Two Civilizations

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pp. 110-111

The Spanish brought completely different manners, customs, habits, illnesses, religion, language, ideals, and, in general, civilization, from that of the indigenous Peruvian peoples. The Conquest produced something like a great cataclysm which demolished, almost from its foundations, the national structure shaped by the indigenous...

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7. Prehistoric Trephining among the Yauyos of Peru

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pp. 112-124

Toward the east of the province of Lima extends a zone of intricate deep valleys and gullies, extensive tablelands, inaccessible summits and puna, bounded by the western branch of the Cordilleras of the Andes. This region was the habitat of the Yauyos and the Huarochiris who had been incorporated with the Chinchaysuyu...

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8. The Discovery of the Chav

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pp. 125-164

In 1919, while exploring the basin of the Mariash, or Pukcha, River, one of the upper Amazon affluents, I found in Chav

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9. The Feline God and Its Transformations in Chav

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pp. 165-234

Aboriginal art reaches its maximum degree of development in the North Andean region. Chav

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10. The Remains of Three Different Pre-Columbian Cultures Have Been Found on the Paracas Peninsula

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pp. 235-245

Recent work carried out by the Museum of Peruvian Archaeology on the Paracas Peninsula revealed the existence of important archaeological finds corresponding to three distinct pre-Columbian cultures. The first is represented by the Cavernas of Cerro Colorado, whose antiquity goes back to an epoch before the cultures of the...

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11. A Modeled Clay Scene in Ancient Peruvian Art

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pp. 246-274

I had the opportunity while on a trip to the Department of Ica in the summer of 1921 to look over the major private archaeological collections in that important region. At that time, I saw the collections of C

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12. The Ruins of Wari

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pp. 275-278

Interested in seeing the place of provenience of a certain type of fine ceramics that I knew only from drawings shown to me by the director of the Indigenous Section of the Ministry of Instruction, I decided to take advantage of the University’s Independence Day holiday to take the journey which I had planned since the beginning...

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13. Andean Civilization: Some Problems of Peruvian Archaeology

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pp. 279-316

The cordillera of the Andes determines the predominant physical character of the geographical environment of Peru. It rises parallel to the littoral of the Pacific and divides, in the south, into two branches which unite in the junction of Vilcanota; in the center, into three branches which unite in the junction of Pasco; and, in the...

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14. The Empire of the Incas

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pp. 317-334

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Tawantin Suyo, or Empire of the Incas, was the most important nation of South America, not only because of its notable civilization but because of its vast territorial dominion. It embraced the greater part of the mountain system of the Andes, from 2

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An Annotated Bibliography of Julio C. Tello

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pp. 335-354

The year following his death, three bibliographies were published for Julio C. Tello. Two are directly attributable to Julio Espejo N


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pp. 355-364

E-ISBN-13: 9781587298332
E-ISBN-10: 1587298333
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587297830
Print-ISBN-10: 1587297833

Page Count: 374
Publication Year: 2009

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Subject Headings

  • Peru -- Antiquities.
  • Tello, Julio C. (Julio César), 1880-1947.
  • Archaeologists -- Peru -- Biography.
  • Indians of South America -- Peru -- Antiquities.
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