Inca Land, Explorations in the Highlands of Peru
by Houghton Mifflin Co. 1922. 12mo. xviii+365 pp. Illustrated. $5.00.. Boston and New York:
Two things contribute to the charm of this fascinating book: the Inca land with which it deals, and the history of the last times of its rulers. Here we have the most vivid and realistic description of the richest landscape that it is possible to imagine; and, at the same time, a picture of the ruins and appropriate references to the legendary times of the Peruvian Empire.
The first part of the book deals with the expedition to Coropuna Mountain — one of the highest in the Andes — 21,703 feet above sea level. Professor Bingham describes very accurately the desert region of the coast and the narrow deep valley near the Cordillera. After climbing Coropuna, the expedition explored Parinacochas Lake, beyond the mountain in the region called Puna. Thus, the first part of the book gives a perfect idea of the principal features of the Peruvian territory, so rich in contrasts, climates, and productions.
The interest increases when the author reaches Titicaca, the highest lake in the world, and the valley of Huatanay, the site of Cuzco the famous capital of the Inca Empire.
Treating a subject on which there is already a very extensive bibliography, Professor Bingham is not inferior to his brilliant predecessors — Squier, Markham, Wiener, and Middendorf, and others. But the earlier pages are only a preparation for the last, which are an original contribution. Professor Bingham, as the discoverer of the Machu Picchu, Rosaspata, and Vilcabamba ruins, was the fittest to write their descriptions and the true interpretation in regard to Peruvian history. Nothing is more romantic than the history of the last four Incas, who, not being able to defeat the Spaniards and to recover the land of their fathers, decided to retire to the unknown region of the Vilcabamba River, almost inaccessible, in order to preserve in the solitude, among the wonderful mountains and forests, the cult of the sun.
Until Professor Bingham’s discoveries scholars believed that the capital of the last Incas was the town of Choqquequirau, near the Apurimac river. After the proofs and the arguments presented in this book, we ought to agree that the old Uiticos corresponds exactly to the ruins of Rosaspata, found by Mr. Bingham in this remote country of Vilcabamba. His description of these places exactly corresponds to that which we have in the old chronicles about the last refuge of the Incas. Less convincing, in our opinion, is the thesis on the location of Vilcabamba Viejo. But data and speculations open the path for new studies and investigations.
The part of the book in which archaæogists and historians will find ground of interminable polemic is, without doubt, that in which the author suggests the idea that Machu Picchu, the megalithic ruins on the Urubamba River correspond to Tampu-tocco, cradle of the Inca Empire. That Tampu-tocco with its three legendary windows, was situated at Paccari-tampu, not very far from Cuzco, was almost a dogma in Peruvian History. We confess that Professor Bingham’s arguments are not entirely convincing, but the new hypothesis invites a thorough study of the obscure origin of the Inca Empire.
VICTOR ANDRES BELAUNDE.
These reviews will be reprinted separately in pamphlet form. Copies may be had by any librarian, without charge, on application to the Atlantic Monthly, 8 Arlington St., Boston.