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A Culture of Stone: Inka Perspectives on Rockby Carolyn Dean
Synopses & Reviews
A major contribution to both art history and Latin American studies, A Culture of Stone offers sophisticated new insights into Inka culture and the interpretation of non-Western art. Carolyn Dean focuses on rock outcrops masterfully integrated into Inka architecture, exquisitely worked masonry, and freestanding sacred rocks, explaining how certain stones took on lives of their own and played a vital role in the unfolding of Inka history. Examining the multiple uses of stone, she argues that the Inka understood building in stone as a way of ordering the chaos of unordered nature, converting untamed spaces into domesticated places, and laying claim to new territories. Dean contends that understanding what the rocks signified requires seeing them as the Inka saw them: as potentially animate, sentient, and sacred. Through careful analysis of Inka stonework, colonial-period accounts of the Inka, and contemporary ethnographic and folkloric studies of indigenous Andean culture, Dean reconstructs the relationships between stonework and other aspects of Inka life, including imperial expansion, worship, and agriculture. She also scrutinizes meanings imposed on Inka stone by the colonial Spanish and, later, by tourism and the tourist industry. A Culture of Stone is a compelling multidisciplinary argument for rethinking how we see and comprehend the Inka past.
Examines pre-Hispanic Inka perspectives on stone, as they are articulated in and through the rocks themselves, as well as in Andean stories about stone.
Argues that the imperial Inka understood stone as potentially animate, sentient, and sacred; building in stone was a way of ordering unordered nature, domesticating untamed spaces, and claiming new territories.
About the Author
“By addressing both well-known and understudied objects, Carolyn Dean offers sophisticated new insights into Inka practices. Moreover, while advancing scholarship on the colonial Andes, she tackles issues relating to the interpretation of non-Western art and its reception, contributing to debates on material objects and the built environment in a wide range of fields.”—Dana Leibsohn, Smith College
“Gold, silver, and weaving are the riches most often associated with the Inka, but as Carolyn Dean’s scholarly study demonstrates, their greatest investment of thought and time was in stone. Moving between descriptions of the magnificent walls of Inka imperial buildings and worked stones in situ, Dean links them as related parts of Inka visual expression, which is hard to comprehend and not easily recognized. But, as Dean stresses, there is an intimate relationship between Andeans and stone that is at the heart of the greatest empire of Ancient America.”—Thomas B. F. Cummins, Harvard University
“The sixteenth-century Spanish priest Cristóbal de Albornoz noted that over half of the sacred things in the Inka capital of Cuzco were rocks. In her stimulating new book, Carolyn Dean explores this ‘culture of stone,’ examining ways in which rock outcrops and other rock forms were the focus of ritual practice and spiritual belief. Illuminating key aspects of pre-Hispanic understandings of landscape and the built environment, this insightful and thought-provoking study reframes the way we consider the Inka visual world.”—Joanne Pillsbury, Director of Pre-Columbian Studies, Dumbarton Oaks
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