The History of a Myth

[ Latin American Studies ]

The History of a Myth

Pacariqtambo and the Origin of the Inkas

By Gary Urton

How one version of the Inka origin myth became part of the official history of the empire.



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6 x 9 | 184 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-73057-1

In the year 1572, the Spanish chronicler Sarmiento de Gamboa completed one of the earliest official versions of the history of the Inka empire. In his account, he stated that the ancestors of the Inkas originated from a cave at a place to the south of the imperial city of Cuzco called Pacariqtambo. The History of a Myth explores how and why this version of the origin myth (there were others) came to form the basis of an official history.

Using a legal document from the 1560s, Urton reveals how the Pacariqtambo origin myth allowed remaining members of the Inka nobility to claim descent from the first Inkas and enjoy special status with their Spanish conquerors. This discovery offers new insight into the social and political factors that determine what becomes "the facts" of history. It also emphasizes the ambiguities inherent in history writing when the informants are the conquered subjects of the authors.

1. The Mythic Dimensions of Inka History
2. The Pacariqtambo Origin Myth in the Spanish Chronicles
3. The Role of the Urban and Provincial Elite in Historicizing Inka Mythohistory
4. Ethnographic and Ethnohistorical Dimensions for a Local Interpretation of the Inka Origin Myth
5. The Rituals and Ritual History of Divine Births and Boundaries
6. Conclusions
Appendix: The Callapiña Document

Gary Urton is Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Pre-Columbian Studies at Harvard University, as well as a MacArthur Fellow (2001-2005).

"This work is unique. There is no other similarly detailed study in the literature of Andean history or anthropology."

—John Hyslop, author of Inka Settlement Planning and other studies of Inka history and culture

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