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The Latin Americanist, June 2012 achievement, which was unprecedented for the time, and certainly not repeated by other European nations competing with Spain for control of the Americas, that defines Las Casas and negates the Black Legend. This omission mars what is otherwise an effective little book. Miguel Gomez Department of History University of Tennessee A CULTURE OF STONE. INKA PERSPECTIVES ON ROCK. By Carolyn Dean. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010, 297 pp., $23.95. The Inka were not the only group in the Andes to build relationships with sacred rocks, as this practice predates them by millennia and spans the entire area incorporated by their empire. So what made Inka relationship to stone so special? And why should one read another book on the subject? Art historian Carolyn Dean’s comprehensive response to the first question makes the second one easy to answer. Indeed, many scholars have devoted themselves to the study of Inka rock, but Dean’s book is original insofar as it reconstructs pre-Hispanic Inka visual culture from an Inka point of view. This means, for instance, that Dean focuses not only on carved stones – the most prominent subject matter in studies of Inka rock ‘art’ – but on all kinds of stones that the Inka valued. She refuses to take the Western view on Inka stone which has led scholars to analyze Inka rocks according to Western categories – including that of art itself. In other words, this book is an attempt to present Inka rocks in Inka terms. If the introduction sets the tone of the discussion, the first chapter goes directly into the subject matter: how did the Inka perceive rock? From the outset, Dean puts aside the idea that stones represented something, because in fact stones were that very thing themselves ‘in a lithic guise’ (26). The author approaches Alfred Gell’s theory of object agency, but regrettably does not take the discussion to its full potential. Likewise, a comparison between the elements of Inka cosmology discussed in this chapter – namely, the relationship between form, essence and transubstantiation – with other Andean and, why not?, Amazonian indigenous perspectives on the same issues would be extremely appealing. But this is not the aim of Dean’s book: she chooses to follow the path of the Inka to illuminate the issues that mattered most to them. Hence, there follows a detailed (and at some points monotonous) description of how Inka differentiated and identified rocks. Dean employs three different types of sources throughout the book: the rocks themselves; colonial accounts of Inka rockwork; and contemporary ethnographic studies, or ‘the thoughts of Indigenous Andeans today’ (19). The author supports her use of contemporary oral history by drawing on the example set by modern-day ethnoarchaeological scholarship, which often uses ethnography combined with more traditional archaeological methods. The ethnographic sources are featured specially in the second 184 Book Reviews chapter, which starts with an Andean narrative about the origins of the Inka recorded in the early 1970s. While some scholars would prefer to deconstruct such an account and explain it in the light of recent events in indigenous history, Dean claims they are continuations of Inka ways of thinking, and as such should be taken seriously. She thus proceeds to an analysis of the relationship of the Inka with the natural and built environments departing from elements in that account. The second half of the book is certainly the most stimulating. The third chapter focuses on how the Inka culture of stone was deeply associated with Inka imperialism – or how their culture of stone symbolically ‘transformed Andean space into Inka territory’(105). By placing outcrops and walls of nibbled stone in strategic points of the landscape, the Inka empire signaled its presence and its power over that particular area. The analysis of how and where integrated outcrops and nibbled walls were constructed is particularly interesting, for the author sensibly focuses on the subtleties of strategic choices such as leaving protuberances in nibbled walls as ‘reminders of the labor inscribed in them’ (117). The attention drawn to Inka labor is one of the most important features of this book, and it is presented in full force in the last...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1557-203X
Print ISSN
1557-2021
Pages
pp. 184-185
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-25
Open Access
No
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