The Secret of the Incas : Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time

The Secret of the Incas : Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time

by William Sullivan
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

In the tradition of Fingerprints of the Gods (Crown, 1995; 65,000 sold) and Stonehenge Decoded, this revolutionary new interpretation of the mythology of the Incas offers an astonishing "history of prehistory".

At its peak, the Inca empire was the largest on Earth. Yet in the year 1532, it was conquered by fewer than 200 Spanish adventurers. How could this happen?

Overview

In the tradition of Fingerprints of the Gods (Crown, 1995; 65,000 sold) and Stonehenge Decoded, this revolutionary new interpretation of the mythology of the Incas offers an astonishing "history of prehistory".

At its peak, the Inca empire was the largest on Earth. Yet in the year 1532, it was conquered by fewer than 200 Spanish adventurers. How could this happen? Approaching the answer clue by clue, William Sullivan decodes the myths of the Incas to reveal that they embody an astoundingly precise record of astronomical events.

In the 15th century, the Inca priest-astronomers read the sky and saw signs of an apocalypse. So the Incas took a desperate gamble: If events in the heavens could influence those on Earth, perhaps the reverse was true. In The Secret of the Incas, Sullivan shows that the Inca rituals of warfare and human sacrifice were nothing less than an attempt to stop time, to forestall the cataclysm that would sweep away their world. This is a work of rare erudition and imagination that will reshape our understanding of the past.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A sometimes murky, frequently meandering excursion into the meaning of ancient Andean beliefs, arguing that in a series of sophisticated myths Incan soothsayers foretold their own civilization's doom at the hands of Pizarro and his conquistadors in 1532.

Sullivan, a scholar of Native American cultures, begins with a question that has perplexed historians of the Spanish conquest: How could the vast Inca Empire, with its millions of subjects, have been conquered overnight by a band of 170 Spanish adventurers? Sullivan digs into the history and mythology of Andean civilization to find what he feels is the answer: For hundreds of years the sages of the Andes had believed that astronomical transitions presaged earthly cataclysms; reading changes in the night skies in the 1400s, Incan priest-astronomers foretold the imminent destruction of their own recently founded empire. Sullivan argues, in a sometimes hyperbolic first-person account ("In that moment I had, I believed, touched for an instant the terrible burden and tragic urgency of the Inca vision"), that the Incas followed the planets, recorded precessional events in their myths, and equated social and celestial changes. He further asserts that elements in Incan culture preceding Pizarro's arrival—constant warfare and the Incan ritual of human sacrifice—represented an attempt to halt the march of time and prevent the apocalyptic events foreshadowed by changes in the night sky. The Incas assumed that the arrival of Pizarro represented the culmination of the prophecy and the failure of their own efforts to prevent its occurrence.

The thread of the author's argument can be hard to follow. Still, Sullivan's deep feeling for Andean folk materials, and the originality of his observations about Andean astronomy, make his text worthwhile for those interested in the history of South American civilization and for those who, in the wake of Joseph Campbell's works, seek enduring meaning in ancient mythology.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780517888513
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/28/1997
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >